Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

'He's Their Doctor' ; Big Chimney Primary Care Practice Destroyed by Floods

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

'He's Their Doctor' ; Big Chimney Primary Care Practice Destroyed by Floods

Article excerpt

Water was already lapping at the front door when Dr. John Richards reached his clinic. Inside, it was bubbling up through the carpet, having already filled the building's lower floor. Richards and one of his employee's sons got to work immediately, stacking records and computers on top of desks in an effort to save them.

"We tried to do all we could - fortunately, one of my employee's daughters was driving by and saw all the water, took a picture and sent it to me, he said. "I jumped in the car ... by the time we got here, the water was already underneath the subfloor. We got everything unplugged and put all the computers as high as we could; it saved a lot of information, but it didn't save the actual equipment.

Mountain State Spine & Health is now a skeleton of wall studs and crumbled drywall inside, but the trees that surround its back lot tell the story of the flood's magnitude - a nearly perfect coat of mud, more than 10 feet tall at the lowest corner of the lot, paints the trees' trunks and lower branches. A few pieces of heavy equipment exercise physiologist James Wiseman was working to hose off Thursday afternoon and some odds and ends are all that remains of Richard's 27-year medical practice - three loads of refuse had already been carted away after an insurance adjuster cleared the property for cleanup Tuesday.

"It's devastating, Richards said. "I will be extremely disappointed if we can't get back on our feet and running again.

For days after the flood, the clinic remained largely preserved the way the water had left it, with chairs, desks and filing cabinets crowded into the back of the clinic, pushed over and away by rising floodwater.

"As the water was coming in, it was just picking stuff up and moving it toward the back, Wiseman said.

A seven-foot-tall cabinet of patient charts acted as a marker inside the clinic, where soggy, bloated stacks of paper filled the lower five-and-a-half feet of shelves.

In the end, the mountain of ruined medical charts came up to Wiseman's chest.

"You could probably salvage some of it, but once you're taking page by page - if you've ever seen paper that's been soaked like that, once you start touching it, it just rips to shreds, he said. "You can't do anything with it.

Wiseman had spent Thursday morning in the parking lot of the practice, taking down names of patients and quick notes describing their medical needs. It was what he and Richards had been doing for days, with the doctor writing replacement prescriptions for patients who needed refills or who lost their medicines in the flood - in their own homes, or in one of the area pharmacies that also flooded.

"I've worked here 17 years, and we had water come in one time. It came in through the front doors and left a little water damage, but it's never, ever flooded like this, said pre-certification specialist April McGee. …

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