Saturday, September 13, 2014

Roller Coaster Ride

It's been an exciting week on the x-ray truck. Last Friday we felt that we had sorted out all of the engineering issues and the truck was ready for general use. 

On Monday we moved the truck to AMPATH center in Eldoret and began taking x-rays of patients in earnest. We took x-rays of 9 patients and were feeling pretty great. 

Tuesday we returned to AMPATH center and only had one patient just before lunch. After exposing the patient, the CR reader malfunctioned and refused to work. I was heartbroken.

You may recall that we have two sets of equipment for the truck. The reader that we are currently using is our backup.  Last year the primary reader feel down in the truck and was damaged. It initially worked, but failed shortly after I left last year, so we've been using the backup.

Interestingly, both the primary (humpty dumpty) and the backup failed in the exact same way. Suggesting that maybe the trauma that the first reader suffered was a red herring. 

Wednesday I picked myself up by my bootstraps and Patrick and I investigated the primary reader. We are lucky to have a very good service manual and a sweet diagnostics program on the laptop.

We identified that the rollers that move the x-ray plate (kind of like film) were not moving.  After investigating many options - blown motor, seized or dirty rollers, and many other parts of the device we found the voltage parameters for the roller motor in the service manual. When we measured the voltage we realized that the motor was not getting any power. We traced the motor connection back to a set of fuses, one of which was blown. 

Let me explain something about Kenya: shops here are much different than in the US. They tend to be locally owned and randomly supplied by unreliable distributors.  There is no Home Depot or Lowes, no The hardware stores tend to be very specialized (one is best for bolts, another for metal, another for wood).  There is a local walmart equivalent, but there is certainly no guarantee that even a simple fuse would be easy to find.  So, finding even a simple fuse could take weeks for the uninitiated.

Luckily, I have a secret weapon: Patrick. Patrick has lived and worked in Eldoret and has solved so many of these challenges that he knew exactly which store could help us. We dropped by just before lunch; 10 minutes and 60 shillings later ($0.90) we had two new fuses plus several backups.

We took the fuses back to the workshop and installed them. Both readers sprang back to life and worked flawlessly.  It was hard to contain our excitement. 

Friday, the truck made a successful visit to a rural clinic (Turbo). Joe was also working at the clinic and it was great to be able to read X-rays for him.  We were able to x-ray another 8 patients. The truck made it to and from the clinic without troubles.  

Stay Tuned: next week we are looking forward to traveling to a more remote site with rougher roads to see how things fare. 

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