Photo package: Veterinary hospital rebuilds after catastrophic flood

Photo package: Veterinary hospital rebuilds after catastrophic flood

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Jul 28, 2010
By dvm360.com staff
Dr. Jill Burgess stands outside the Animal Hospital of West Nashville, in early July — about two months after a record-breaking flood devastated the newly renovated veterinary hospital.

Photo by James Yates
Veterinary clinic staffers, performing a Sunday check on boarded animals, were witness to the rising flood waters. By the time Burgess arrived, the water levels were already above the reception desk.

Photo courtesy of the Animal Hospital of West Nashville
As the flood peaked, office equipment like computers and phones were completely destroyed. Luckily, the veterinary hospital had gone paperless in the months before the flood, and all of the hospital’s patient records were safely stored on a remote server.

Photo courtesy of the Animal Hospital of West Nashville
Flood waters extended above an exam table as depicted in this photo. When Burgess and her staff finally got in through the back door of the veterinary hospital, she said the current made the walls “burst like a water balloon.”

Photo courtesy of the Animal Hospital of West Nashville
The flood spared no area of the veterinary hospital. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency says this flood impacted more than 21,000 homes and 6,000 businesses, causing more than $244 million in damages.

Photo courtesy of the Animal Hospital of West Nashville
Little could be salvaged at the veterinary hospital. Out of all the businesses damaged by the flood, this was the only veterinary hospital in the area known to have suffered such extensive damage.

Photo courtesy of the Animal Hospital of West Nashville
Flood insurance is not offered in Nashville. And Burgess continues to wait for a Small Business Administration loan to begin rebuilding the veterinary practice.

Photo courtesy of the Animal Hospital of West Nashville
Muddy flood waters seeped into every nook and cranny at the Animal Hospital of West Nashville.

Photo courtesy of the Animal Hospital of West Nashville
With the hospital’s surgery suite in shambles, Burgess now practices a few days a week at another area veterinary clinic and out of a makeshift hospital in her home.

Photo courtesy of the Animal Hospital of West Nashville
Burgess estimates losses of $250,000 in equipment and materials alone — not counting the damage to the building. She purchased the hospital three years ago and completely renovated it two years ago.

Photo courtesy of the Animal Hospital of West Nashville
The loss of life was even more devastating, Burgess says. Six of the 20 animals boarded at the clinic died as a result of the flood. Animals in the upper-level cages were rescued by Burgess and veterinary clinic staffers.

Photo courtesy of the Animal Hospital of West Nashville
The force of the water as it ran through the veterinary clinic made it almost impossible to enter the building, and even harder to get the surviving animals out. In fact, survivors were placed in whatever containers staff members could find to keep them afloat, and some animals were moved onto the roof until the flood receded enough to transport them to safety.

Photo courtesy of the Animal Hospital of West Nashville
Looking back, the animal losses from “the 1,000-year flood” were still the hardest part of the ordeal to come to terms with. “There’s a hole in my heart. If I could just go back there and save my babies …,” the 46-year-old veterinarian said.

Photo by James Yates
Two months later, evidence of the flood is finally receding. The veterinary clinic walls have been stripped down to studs. Burgess estimates there was about $130,000 in damages to the building, and it’s going to take months to recover. Rebuilding, with the help of a Small Business Administration loan, has been stalled until Congress passes a national flood insurance program.

Photo by James Yates
Burgess set up a PayPal account for donations to help defray rebuilding costs of the veterinary practice. About $20,000 has been raised so far, she says. To learn more, visit www.westnashvilleanimal.com.

Photo by James Yates