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Children's Hospital Oakland to Receive Ferritometer - Only Three Worldwide (February 2001)

A ferritometer is a rare and highly specialized machine which painlessly measures levels of iron stored in the body. It’s of great benefit to children with life-threatening blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease, thalassemia and hemachromatosis, who would otherwise have to undergo painful, invasive procedures to monitor their condition. There are only three ferritometers in the world—one in Italy, one in Germany, and now one in Children’s Hospital & Research Center at Oakland.

The new Health Sciences Building, located on the CHORI (Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute)campus, was designed to meet the machine’s very specific technical requirements. The ferritometer can’t be anywhere near metal that contains iron. Its key component is a 2-inch magnet, cooled to minus 425 degrees Fahrenheit, which is so sensitive that any kind of magnetic vibration—say, someone walking by with a hammer—can skew test results.

Constructing a home for equipment with such exacting specifications presented unique challenges. Designers came up with some creative non-metallic (or non-ferrous) alternatives to the steel rebar, nails, ductwork, concrete reinforcing, flashing etc. used in standard construction. The anchor bolts attaching the building to its foundation and much of the door hardware are carbon fiber. Screws and nails are made of bronze, which contains no iron. The rebar is fiberglass, and the mesh used for affixing plaster to interior walls is plastic. PVC was used for ductwork and air grilles are custom made of wood.

The equipment is technically demanding, but the kids who’ll be coming for treatment have needs, too. The building was also designed to be inviting. The building is set away from the street and surrounded by trees and a garden. Inside, 20-foot ceilings and large clerestory windows fill the rooms with light.

The first patients are scheuled for treatments in June 2002. We anticipate that they—and the ferritometer—will feel at home in the new Health Sciences Building.

Monday, May 16, 2011 11:33 PM

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