Case Studies – Document Recovery Solutions

Saving water-damaged x-rays with innovative drying system

When disaster struck at Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital, it seemed like a horrendous rainstorm had engulfed the facility. A burst water line flooded the hospital's file storage area and approximately 800,000 crucial x-ray images were in jeopardy. In the face of this challenging situation, hospital staff called on Polygon to preserve and recover the damaged materials.

“It was like I was standing in a horrendous rainstorm!”

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


Maintenance personnel were repairing a feed to a toilet in the anesthesiologist lounge restroom when the line burst occurred. Directly above where the critical x-rays are stored at the 37-bed, not-for-profit hospital located in Rocky Mount, VA.

“It was a horrific 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 movable shelves.  This was an arduous task given the amount of water pouring into the 900 square-foot 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. She immediately called the facility’s insurance company who recommended that the hospital contact Polygon.


Bill Jacobsen, vice president and hospital administrator for Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital contacted Polygon to develop a restoration plan. Polygon instructed the hospital staff to bring the temperature in the room down as low as possible to minimize the damage and to prepare for Polygon’s arrival.

Restoration Effort Moves Forward

Polygon personnel arrived, 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, Polygon, was on site to assess the damage and coordinate the restoration work.

“The success of the project can be attributed to how well Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital staff and Polygon 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 Polygon’s largest document drying center in Glendale Heights, Il.

“Though some of the x-rays weren’t hit by water, many drew moisture from the ones that were totally soaked,” said Kaidel. “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, a Polygon 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.”

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

Labor-Intensive Drying Project

All the hospital’s x-rays were dried and cleaned by hand at Polygon’s Glendale Heights facility by 15 team members. The first step in the drying 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, repackaged, and returned to the hospital.

“Watching the film being processed was most impressive,” said Dellis after being invited to the facility to see the restoration firsthand. “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 time sensitive situations where specific x-rays were needed Polygon personnel processed them immediately and shipped them for next day arrival.

“Polygon provided me with a contact number if there was a situation where I needed an x-ray urgently, and I always received them on time,” said Dellis.

Dellis stated that during this 12-week project 99% of the damaged x-rays were salvaged. Polygon is now formally written into the disaster plan for all Carilion hospitals and outlying facilities.