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A day at work in an African Hospital: X-ray edition

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Published on Aug 27, 2009

I volunteered as a medical equipment technician-- doing repairs on the medical equipment, taking inventory of all the equipment, and also doing a needs assessment.
The broken GE X-ray was by far the most important repair-- a simple burnt light bulb was enough to make the X-ray machine unusable. The bulb was 24-V, and unavailable in Tanzania. This bulb is what I use for my desk lamp, and can be found anywhere in the US. So, my partner and I decided to connect two 12-V lightbulbs (which we found from a Tanzanian hardware store) in series. Voltage in series adds, allowing for the net of 24-V. Also, because the machine is American, the Tanzanain 220-V outlet was too much, and blew the machine (even though we used a voltage regulator!). We contacted a Tanzanian biomedical engineer (one of six in the entire nation), and obtained a higher resistance veristor. This replacement allowed for the machine to work and protect against any unstable surges.
As soon as we repaired the machine, the radiologist used it to serve the long line of patients needing an X-ray.

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