October 23, 2007

What I Do

Readers may wonder what brings me to far flung places like Naples FL or Alton IL or all the other odd spots I visit and occasionally blog about.

I'm here to visit a cancer treatment center. The subject equipment is a specialized flavor of Linear Accelerator, which is used to treat tumors and cancerous cells with radiation. The goal is to radiated the tumor to the point of destruction, while leaving non-cancerous cells intact.

This is a new and novel device which looks much like an overgrown CT Scanner, and in fact acts much like one. It images the tumor using traditional CT scanning, and treats the tumor in a similar way. Word on the street is that patients undergoing radiation therapy on such a machine are much less debilitated and have fewer side effects - since the treatment time is shorter and the radiation much more localized to the tumor.

I have almost nothing to do with the actual medical equipment - I am more concerned with the electrical system feeding these devices - circuit breakers, conductors, transformers, power conditioners, grounding, and the electrical service itself. Invariably, I am poking around in a transformer - here a 75 KVA transformer used to step the facility voltage (208 VAC, 3 Phase) up to the voltage the equipment needs (480 VAC, 3 Phase). Sometimes, the transformers are undersized, wired incorrectly, grounded improperly. All sorts of electrical problems that can somtimes affect the reliability of the equipment (uptime, component failures, treatment accuracy). I'm a bit of a "fixer" - I come to town when the problems do not seem to respond to more conventional troubleshooting or are outside of the local and national service engineers' experience.

I like what I do. It helps people. Invariably, I see patients in the waiting area en route to treatment - and realize that each of them are involved in their own personal negotiation with mortality. Some old and frail, others shockingly young and apparently healthy. We all are, really - but working in this field, you come a bit closer to it all than one would otherwise.

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