In the dawn that Sunday, Regina Bailey fell to her knees and wept. Flood waters had risen above the windowsills of her single-story house on Cooper Lane in East Nashville, where she and her children had lived for 17 years. Inside the house, the water level would soon top out at three-and-a-half feet.
“I could see the lights flicker in the house,” she said. “I knew everything I owned was gone.”
Bailey watched from the road for a while, then she crossed the city to report for a 12-hour shift in the Emergency Department at Vanderbilt University Hospital, where she is a medical receptionist.
Bailey’s house remained flooded for five days. Her colleagues persuaded her to take that Sunday off, but after that she insisted on working her regular schedule.
“I was homeless. Where was I going to go? They wanted me to take off—if I take off it’s depressing. I didn’t know what to do; I was lost. I felt like I was safe at Vanderbilt—I had a roof over my head.”
The rain had begun on Friday evening, and during work that Saturday she kept an eye on the local news. Three or four times she telephoned her neighbor, LuAnn, who was keeping watch on the neighborhood. Houses on Bailey’s side of the street are officially inside the Cumberland River flood zone. Around 6:30 p.m., toward the end of her shift, Bailey learned that Cooper Lane had been closed due to flooding. “That’s when I really got scared,” she said.
Bailey’s 12-year-old daughter, Diamond, was on a class trip to Washington, D.C., and her son, Quentin, was away at college at Chattanooga State.
But that still left Denzel, Bailey’s toy poodle.
When she got home Saturday evening, Bailey was unable to wade through the cold floodwaters surrounding her house. The water had reached the foundation but wasn’t yet up to the door. Bailey’s brother came to retrieve Denzel, then she and Denzel spent the night at Bailey’s sister’s in East Nashville—Bailey considered staying the night in her house, “but I had to go to work the next day and I thought how am I going to get back out of there with my uniform and not get it wet,” she said with laughter.
In these circumstances, “you have to talk,” Bailey says. She has spoken with her pastor and with a psychological counselor at Vanderbilt’s WorkLife Connections – Employee Assistance Program. She has been heartened by the solicitude and generosity of co-workers and neighbors. Volunteers helped with flood cleanup. The manager of the ED, Janice Sisco, took her clothes shopping, and co-workers have brought in clothes and other necessities for Bailey and her children.

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