The Tsunami Hits
|WMI grad Dwayne Meadows
I was in my bungalow 20 yards
from the ocean when the tsunami hit. I heard people
yelling and excited. Soon after, I heard a distant
rumb-ling roar. I saw people looking out at the
ocean. All the water had left the ocean for maybe
a quarter mile out. And you could see the wave coming
about a quarter mile away. It looked like a vertical
wall of sandy water, topped by white foam.
There wasn’t enough time to get to high ground.
I was washed through the bungalow and out the partially
collapsed wall. I was underwater a long time—maybe
30 to 60 seconds. I remember swirling around, and
lots of things banging into me, but nothing hit me
too hard. I remember the water was so black.
I got to the surface and breathed in so deeply I
felt I was gagging. I quickly grabbed onto a piece
of plastic foam. I was being washed into and through
trees. I was starting to be washed back out to the
Getting to Shore
I got my first chance to start to think ahead about
what I could do and assess the situation. I looked
around and realized I was about 400 yards offshore. I
started to swim.
I realized that my left knee and hip were hurt and
couldn’t support a lot of weight. I didn’t
really notice the sprained ankle yet. I saw that
my hands were all cut up and bleeding, every knuckle,
as well as a deep cut on my right hand, a moderately
deep slash on my left outer wrist that looked deep
enough to get an artery, and a deep cut on my inner
left pinkie. My legs were bleeding, but I hardly
noticed. I just tried to get away quickly.
The Second Wave
On the beach, I saw some women and told them we
should go up the beach to safety. They resisted.
So I told them we could look for their families up
there. Finally, they followed. I led, looking for
a route. There was debris everywhere, including glass
and sharp metal. That’s when we saw our first
few bodies. I told myself not to look at the gore
any more than I had to.
Someone saw the second wave and started to yell.
I turned and saw it coming. So I ran like hell. The
wave was not so big and we were safe.
First Aid Begins
We were at the Phu Khao Lak Resort, where injured
people were laying out amongst all the debris. I
came across some guys from a dive shop who were giving
first aid. I introduced myself and told them I had
advanced training. Maybe 15 minutes later the dive
shop guys came and asked me for help with a little
boy who was not breathing well. When I checked him
over, I realized he had a high respiratory rate,
and the bluest face and lips I’d ever seen,
but no evidence of an obstructed airway or inhaled
or swallowed water. When I removed a bandage someone
had put on the boy, I saw that he had a two-inch
by one-inch chest wound that went clear through to
his chest cavity.
I sealed up the bandage and within a couple of minutes,
he started to breathe easier and pink up. My
confidence in my first aid ability started to grow.
I mustered some arrogance and tried to reassure
people that I was trained as a “paramedic.” That
is a word I ended up using a lot that day as it translates
into German and Thai.
Others started to come to me for help. I saw a finger
amputation and tried to get ice and make sure they
kept pressure and elevation. I had no supplies beyond
a few little bandages, some Betadine and other useless
stuff. Another bad hand wound was treated as best
I decided to check on everyone from the camp systematically
from bottom to top. I took 100 pain killers from
someone, and that was my first-aid kit. I started
to get into a routine of looking for big bleeders,
chest injuries and evidence of head wounds.
I developed my spiel about what to do and what to
look for and tried to get friends, family or less
hurt victims to look after the worst cases. There
was no power or cell phone and no communication.
We kept doing first aid all day. We were still expecting
help to arrive any time.
Medical Help Arrives
A pediatric nurse from Germany finally arrived.
We started cleaning and bandaging everything. She
had some gauze, steri-strips, three little one-ounce
Betadines and one or two similar sized mercurochrome
bottles. Later on, a doctor from Serbia joined us. He
had a backpack with some drugs and supplies. He looked
over the work I did on the small boy and said I did
fine and that he didn’t need to double check
my work. Our work continued...
Much later, I was hustled into a wheelchair at a
hospital. I was too weak and tired to do anything.
I spent two nights in the hospital and then was evacuated
to Bangkok. I left Bangkok for home on Dec 30, where
I continue to recover.