Described as the worst flooding since the Hurricane of 1938, the New England Flood of May 2006 deluged the area with torrential rain during the week-long storm. In addition to severe flooding, hundreds of roads were closed and homes and businesses suffered extensive damage. For lab owners Bev and Don Desmarais, it was a double whammy, since their lab, Teamwork Dental Studio, was located in the basement of their Epsom, New Hampshire home.
The six-year-old lab is located near the Suncook River and, on May 14, Bev and Don noticed water coming in the windows of the lab. Don and his son, Sam, raised up all of their equipment and filing cabinets to keep them dry, but within a couple of hours--to their despair--the lab was filled with nearly four feet of water! They went back into the basement and, with plastic bins floating alongside them, scooped up just about everything they could and managed to rescue their computers, case pans, all their files and about 95% of their equipment.
Several days later when the flooding subsided, the cleanup began. The water damage to the lab was so extensive, the Desmaraises had no choice but to demolish the entire lab and basement of their home. "That was hard," says Don, as he describes pulling all the nails and screws out of a wall he had built six years earlier. "The lab was our baby."
Not knowing where to turn, Don called his former boss, Chuck Cook, owner of Cook Dental Studio, to share the news. Cook and his colleague, Armand Auger, own a building in Manchester, New Hampshire, about an hour away, which houses both of their laboratories. Cook graciously offered them work space in his lab, which Don and Bev gratefully accepted. "Cook and his staff opened their arms and hearts to us," says Don. Bev adds, "He let us use his equipment, welcomed us and made us feel at home."
Each morning, the couple loaded their car with everything they'd need for the day, then made the trek to Cook's lab where they would work into the night. Cook and Auger even gave the pair their own set of keys to the building so they could work on their own schedule.
Life was just beginning to settle down for the couple when tragedy struck again. A five-ton bucket loader backed over their six-year-old grandson, KC. He was airlifted to a hospital, where doctors discovered he had broken his pelvis in two places. Luckily, surgery wasn't needed, and KC was back to bouncing around again within weeks. "The accident really put our material loss into perspective for us," says Don. "Losing KC would have been unbearable."
Vowing to put the past behind them, the Desmaraises decided to keep their operation above ground and build a new lab in their two-car garage. They filed for financial assistance through FEMA and, to their shock, were rejected. Don and Bev filed an appeal and found out their home and place of business was incorrectly documented as a "vacation home." Once the error was rectified, the couple was granted $3,000. Since the Desmaraises didn't have flood insurance, their only option was to apply for a 30-year loan through the Small Business Administration.
Their new lab opened in September of 2006 and, amazingly, the setbacks did not adversely affect their business. Their dentist-clients were understanding about the situation and, thanks to Cook and Auger's generosity, they were able to continue working without missing any deadlines. "This whole experience has been very heartwarming," says Bev. "It has shown us how good people can be. Friends have come over to help, people have sent money. All of these things have helped Don and me keep going while remaining sane."