Retirement sendoff for Dr. Andrews of Hastings is set for Nov. 12
When Dick Andrews began practicing medicine in Hastings 36 years ago, the emergency room here certainly had its challenges. It was well named, if you will — there was just one room at the time.
“If we had two patients, the other one was out in the hall,” Andrews said.
All kinds of things have obviously changed since those days in Hastings. Now, another big change is coming. Andrews is retiring at the end of the month. A going-away party is planned for him from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 12, at the Regina Medical Center chapel. Andrews will turn 65 years old on Dec. 4.
“It’s all kind of rushing at me,” he said.
Now that he’s taking a few minutes to reflect on a life filled with blessings, Andrews can’t help but wish his father was here to see all of this.
One day, while looking through his father’s belongings, Andrews came across a note that referenced things his father wanted to be. On the note, his father had written he wanted to be a doctor and a pilot.
Andrews accomplished both, having picked up flying in the mid-1980s. Before his father passed away, he was able to see Andrews take flight, but so much has happened since then.
“I wish my father could be here to see what I have done,” he said.
For about 30 years, Andrews and nurse Betty Nygaard have been teammates.
“She has a very beneficial effect on our patients,” Andrews said. “Her compassion. Her caring heart. It’s part of the healing process for our patients. It’s a definite team effort.
“Together we can accomplish more than I could on my own. She’s amazing.”
Nygaard isn’t retiring, but she’ll have a different job and will be working with other doctors, seeing new patients. She’ll be honored at the party on Nov. 12, too.
Over the years, Andrews and his family has been able to travel the world, and in December 2007 they were visiting New Zealand.
The trip turned tragic one day while on a tour bus. The bus blew a tire and the driver lost control, skidding into a ditch and coming to rest on its side.
Andrews remembers looking through a broken windshield and seeing gasoline dripping outside. He sprang to action but soon realized his daughter Katie was seriously injured. She had back pain and trouble breathing.
Soon after, a rescue team arrived and rushed her away to a waiting helicopter. Katie was numb from the waist down and Andrews was getting worried.
She had a CT scan and that’s when those concerns were validated.
“The doctor looked me in the eyes and said, ‘This looks very ominous,’” Andrews said. “That was one of the most sinking feelings I’ve ever had.”
Katie’s spine was fractured.
“To me, it looked like there was no way that her spinal cord wasn’t severed,” he said.
Not long after that CT scan, though, Katie started have tingling in her toes and soon she was able to move them. She was flown to Auckland where she had spinal surgery on her birthday. She got better right away and was discharged the day after she was admitted. She has since made a complete recovery.
“God was watching over us,” he said. “I’ll tell you – that was an unbelievable experience.”
Andrews grew up on the east side of St. Paul and in Maplewood. He graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield and then went to the University of Minnesota medical school.
He did his family practice residency at Methodist Hospital in St. Paul and it was there that he met his wife-to-be, Pam.
She was a nurse in the newborn nursery and a nurse in the obstetrics department was determined to set the two of them up. That led Andrews to make as many trips as possible into the nursery. Eventually, those trips were rewarded with a first date and by 1976, the two were married.
In 1977, Andrews graduated and then took three months off so that he could go hiking, sailing and backpacking.
Andrews was recruited by Dave Eckes and Jim Noreen to join the Hastings Family Practice Clinic, and he did so in September 1977. Eckes and Noreen had been operating for a few years and they told him they understood what it was like to go from school and into the real world.
“They knew some of the challenges (I was going to face),” Andrews said.
Dick and Pam Andrews have three children and four grandchildren.
Their children’s names are Katie, Tim and Jodi.
In retirement, Andrews plans to spend more time with all of them.
He’ll also be able to spend more time in the sky. Andrews loves to do what is called soaring. His plane, without an engine, is towed into the sky about 2,000 to 3,000 feet up. The cable is then disconnected and he pilots the plane as it soars through the air, finding updrafts along the way to continue climbing.
Last year, in one flight, he was able to fly 400 miles from the small airport in Stanton.
He also enjoys skiing, sailing and camping.
He’ll likely be involved around Hastings, too, where he still lives.
“My heart is for helping people,” he said, “but I don’t know specifically where that is going to take me.”
One thing that is for sure is that Andrews leaves behind thousands of patients who think highly of him. He’s been receiving cards as word gets out about his retirement, including a recent card about how thankful one grandmother was that he had delivered her grandchild.
“Basically, she was saying, ‘Job well done,’” he said. “That meant the world to me. I’ve said that I’m far from perfect, but I promise that I will do the best I can.”