Going the Extra 1,368 Miles

By Lynn McCain | June 7

Michigan Medicine health facilities including the University Hospital, University Health Service, Frankel Cardiovascular Center, C. S. Mott Children’s and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, Taubman Health Center, and the Rogel Cancer Center are all connected by a pneumatic tube system that transports patient specimens to the Pathology Laboratories for testing and blood products from the blood bank to where they are needed. This system consists of 60,000 feet of pneumatic tube, called the P-tube. 6,000 P-tube carriers are propelled through the 6” tubing at a rate of 20 ft/sec or 13.6 miles/hour each day, transporting about 30,000 lbs daily. This is the equivalent of sending 2.5 male African Elephants through the system every day.

Stephen Spencer, Danay Majeski, Kristina Truslowski, Amanda Salamin, and Michelle Marx record their steps.Soon, the D. Dan and Betty Kahn Healthcare Pavilion will be added to this system, with an additional 2,000 transactions and 11,600 additional feet of tubing. To accommodate the additional volume, upgrades were needed. This meant shutting down the P-tube system for five days, between May 6 and May 11, 2024. However, during this time, the specimens still needed to be delivered to Pathology and blood still had to reach the floors. Somehow, the equivalent of 2.5 male African Elephants would need to be transported every day. How was this going to happen?

Mary_Tocco sq 500.jpgMary Tocco, Administrative Lab Manager for Specimen Processing, stepped up and coordinated a team of Pathology volunteers and temporary staff to physically run the specimens from points of origin across Michigan Medicine facilities to the Pathology labs and blood products from the Blood Bank to resupply storage units supporting our operating rooms and hospital floors. Coined “runners”, the team of 60 staff plus a variety of temps took a combined total of 2.6 million steps between May 6 and May 11. These teammates did not just go the extra mile for our patients, they went an extra 1,368 miles! That is roughly the distance from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Miami, Florida. Kaitlyn Smith, one of our temporary staff, logged the most steps with 162,561 steps, or 71.1 miles, an average of 14 ¼ miles per day. On average, our runners covered 11.5 miles per shift.

Jodi Smiley, Heidi Lewis and Brandi Diehl prepare for their next run.“I want to thank you and express my appreciation to everyone for how well you managed this extraordinary pneumatic tube downtime.  It is another example of great team effort, and I am proud of all of you,” stated Dr. Riccardo Valdez, Director of Clinical Pathology. “A BIG THANK YOU to you too, Mary, for your leadership and planning and executing on this!”

Together, this amazing team kept Michigan Medicine Hospitals and Clinics operating and made sure all patients received essential blood products and had their tests performed in a timely manner. Scott Marquette, Associate COO for UM Health Operations, expressed his appreciation, “The team certainly provided outstanding support to ensure patient care was not interrupted.  A big thank you to all for these efforts.”  They ensured our patients continued to receive the excellent care Michigan Medicine is known for. We applaud you for your efforts and thank you for your service to our patients!