In August 2009, Chris Carey, M.D., a general surgery resident at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, lost his wife of 13 years, Niki. She died 38 months after a diagnosis of liver cancer.
So when the 500-year flood of 2010, that devastated the Midstate, threatened his family’s home, he took it all in stride.
 “It was all out of my control,” said Carey. “I learned that when Niki had cancer.”
He salvaged as much as he could of his family’s belongings, including precious photos of his late wife, before evacuating his one-story Bellevue home.
“I loaded pictures, the kids, the dogs and files into the car and I was going try to drive out,” said Carey. “But we were trapped on the street because of the flooding. I unloaded the kids and carried them through the water to safety.
“I returned to the Trailblazer and drove it through to drier land. I tried for over an hour to get out of Bellevue but all the roads were flooded.”
Carey left the children, Conner, 9, and Kilyn, 6, with neighbors. Then he and his fiancée Deanna Chapman waded through the knee deep water back to his home.
“I just started throwing clothes into trash bags, grabbed the kids’ trophies and a portrait of my wife. It all went into the attic. Everything I could grab I threw into the attic.
“We were running around the house getting things. It was finally up to my waist. Everything was floating. I could no longer see our fence which was 6 feet tall. We knew we had to get out.”
Carey, who is 6 feet tall, said the water was up to his chest and dangerously high on Deanna as they were making their way out of the house.
When he returned the next day, he found that everything in the attic was safe despite the more than 5 feet of water still standing in the house.
Even more trouble: just one week after the flood hit Nashville, he found himself in the middle of an F-4 tornado that struck Oklahoma City. There were several fatalities and structural damage reported in the area, he said. Luckily he and his children walked away unscathed.
“At that point, all I could do was laugh at it all,” said Carey “It was just unbelievable. I told my buddy that I might need to go to church more often or something.
“When I look back at it, it was all stressful but you have to keep going. You can’t do much about it and there is always someone who has it harder than I do.”
Now that the children have returned to school and work is beginning on the restoration of his home, things are settling down and returning to normal, said Carey.
But the events of the past weeks have left him with a few existential questions, he said.
“I mean the Thursday before the flood, my little girl decides that Dr. Seuss was not challenging enough and she went to her room and brought back the children’s Bible.
“Here we are reading about Noah,” he said chuckling. “Now that I look back on it all, it’s like, umm, next time could you speak a little bit clearer to me and could you cut me some slack?”
Carey will complete his residency at Vanderbilt in July. He plans to move to Oklahoma City.

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Chris Carey