One of the hardest things Barbara McCafferty’s family has endured in recent years is her husband’s cancer. The Vanderbilt post-op assessment nurse in the Digestive Disease Clinic has been by husband Dave Paczko’s side during 27 operations on his hip, pelvis and thigh, operations that have left him with still-healing wounds, forcing him to use crutches and a scooter to get around.
Cancer is a tough opponent, but the couple had moved into a sprawling one-level home near Percy Warner Park that accommodated his needs. The Little Harpeth River was several hundred yards away, down a 12-foot embankment. Life appeared to be improving.
Then came the Nashville rains.
“We got up early that Sunday morning and saw water about a foot away from the back of our house,” remembered McCafferty. “I called the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office and asked if there was an evacuation plan. I explained that I had a husband with disabilities. They told me to call back when it was a matter of life and death.”
Two teenage boys from the neighborhood were soon banging on the home’s front door.
“I don’t know where they came from but they were frantic to get us out,” said McCafferty. “Neighbors got our car started and moved it to higher ground.”
Water started entering the house through “every vent, every drain, every bathroom.” McCafferty called county EMTs for help.
“Suddenly the water just pushed the front door open. Pretty soon it was up to our chests. I remember two men coming and picking me up under the arms and pulling me through the water and they did the same with Dave.”
Once in the car, the couple tried to drive out of the neighborhood, but every few yards the car would stall. A woman McCafferty calls an angel knocked on the window of their car and took them into her home, offering dry clothes until the water receded and the couple could get to a friend’s condo. Those frantic hours now seem like a blur. But what happened in the days after the deluge is as clear as the prized crystal stemware McCafferty lost in the flood.
“These amazing people came out of nowhere. Churches, neighbors, volunteers from Hands on Nashville were all just amazingly generous and kind. My Vanderbilt family has been just incredible, showing up with buckets, gloves and hammers,” said a tearful McCafferty. “They boxed up our stuff, ripped out carpet, drywall, cabinets and hardwood floors. They brought industrial dehumidifiers and box fans to try to dry out the house. Now the house is just down to the studs.”
Like so many other Nashville flood victims, the couple didn’t have flood insurance. They lost Dave’s scooter, medications and dressings for his wound and nearly everything else in the house. They don’t know if they will be able to rebuild or where they will go from here.  
So they focus on one of the few positive aspects of the experience—the kindness of strangers.
“I am so grateful to people whose names I don’t even know.”

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Barbara MCCafferty