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Quick Action Saves Water-Damaged X-Rays

July 2, 2008
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“It was like I was standing in a horrendous rain storm!”

That’s how Patsy Dellis, imaging services director at Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital, recalls her first impression when a water line burst one floor above the file storage area she works in, causing hundreds of gallons of water to gush into the room and saturating nearly 800,000 sensitive x-ray images.

Maintenance personnel were repairing a feed to a toilet in the anesthesiologist lounge restroom, one floor directly above where the precious x-rays are stored, when the incident occurred at the 37-bed, not-for-profit hospital located in Rocky Mount, Va.

“It was a terrific mess,” said Dellis. “The water was ankle deep, running out the door and spreading up and down the hallway.”

As the water poured into the room, Dellis attempted to limit the damage to the x-rays by placing plastic sheets over the top of the moveable shelves in the 900 square-foot space – an arduous task given the amount of water pouring into the room. Water cascaded continuously for 10 minutes before hospital staff could shut off the main water supply.

Tasked with salvaging as many documents as possible, Janis Fugel, director -- financial risk management, for all Carilion hospitals, a network of eight hospitals and 67 physician practices, called the facility’s insurance company who recommended that the hospital contact Munters Moisture Control Services Division (MCS). Bill Jacobsen, vice president and hospital administrator for Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital, spoke to Al Halleck, MCS national account manager, to develop a restoration plan. Halleck instructed the hospital staff to bring the temperature in the file room down as low as possible to minimize the damage and to prepare for MCS’ arrival the next day.

Restoration Effort Moves Forward
MCS personnel arrived the following morning, just 12 hours after the water-damage event, with two refrigerated freezer tractor-trailer trucks, a large desiccant dehumidifier and several air blowers. Dan Kaidel, MCS District Manager, was on site to access the damage and coordinate the restoration work.

“The success of the project can be attributed to how well Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital staff and Munters personnel worked together,” said Kaidel. “We were given complete support and access to anything needed to keep progress moving.”

One step in the recovery effort consisted of loading all of the x-rays into boxes and then placing them in the refrigerated trucks for shipment to MCS’ largest document drying center in Glendale Heights, Ill.

“Though some of the x-rays weren’t hit by water, many drew moisture from the ones that were totally soaked,” said Halleck. “Once frozen, the boxes could be held long-term without additional damage until individually processed for recovery.”

“Due to the small size of the x-ray storage room, the removal process was quite difficult,” said Dellis. “One truck left with a load the day after work began and the other a few days later.”

In addition to the x-ray relocation, an MCS dehumidifier was placed in the hallway outside the file room to remove moisture from affected walls, floors and ceilings. The dehumidifier also included a deodorizer to eliminate odors.

“When the dehumidifier was activated, I immediately felt the moisture being pulled right out of the room,” said Dellis. “It was very impressive.”

Munters personnel also helped with clean-up efforts, which included removal of the room’s water-damaged floor.

Labor-Intensive Drying Project
All of the hospital’s x-rays were dried and cleaned by hand at MCS’ Glendale Heights facility. MCS personnel have extensive experience restoring water-damaged materials quickly and effectively, including books of all types, office files, film, photographs, architectural renderings, and more.

The first step in the process consisted of removing the x-rays from the freezer and running them through a cleaning solution. Then the documents were rinsed in normal tap water before being hung to dry. After being dried by desiccant equipment, the images were inspected for cleanliness, assembled into new boxes, re-labeled according to the inventory, reboxed and delivered to the owner.

A total of 15 employees handled the x-ray project. Halleck invited Dellis to witness the restoration operation firsthand at the MCS facility.

“Watching the film being processed was most impressive,” said Dellis. “There were rows and rows of x-rays hanging all over the building. It was quite a major labor intensive effort.”

Bringing Images Back to Life
As x-rays were restored, they were shipped back to the hospital file room. In situations where Dellis needed to supply an x-ray for a patient, MCS personnel processed them immediately and shipped them for next day arrival.

The restoration project lasted 12 weeks and, according to Dellis, 99 percent of the x-rays were salvaged.

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