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Technical Difficulties

Posted By Matthew Price, Friday, June 15, 2012
Updated: Friday, June 15, 2012

Let me tell you a story of hearbreak and loss, redemption and hope, and ultimately the triumph of good over evil.

This is the story of the time my fundus camera broke.

The day started like any other. I had drawn up several syringes of fluorescein in anticipation of the workload that my retina specialist was going to toss at me. I had organized my drawers and cabinets, I had my needles at the ready, tape was drawn and cut, and the alcohol wipes and cotton balls were at the ready.

Things moved along swimmingly. It was shaping up to be a good day. My patients were friendly and understanding of the procedure (as I’m sure many of my fellow retinal angiographers know, not every patient is very receptive to the notion of driving a needle into their arm and pumping them full of dye!), and the patient load wasn’t overwhelming.

About two thirds of the way through the day, I began an angiogram like I had done many times before during that day. "Alright, Ms. Smith (names have been changed to protect the innocent),” I said. "Let’s get some pictures.” She happily obliged me. The procedure began, and she was wonderful. I was taking her last photo when it happened.


What was that? I thought. I use this camera all day every day and I know what it’s not supposed to sound like. I looked at the computer screen and the picture looked good. Must’ve just been a weird little sound, as sometimes complex machines make funny noises and then it’s right back to business as usual.



But things were not business as usual.

I brought my next patient in, explained the procedure, procured consent, etc. When I went to take the preliminary photographs, I looked into the viewfinder to see; my eye, upside down. I checked to see if my camera was set in ICG mode where that kind of thing is normal. It wasn’t.


I looked around the camera and lined my lens up with the donut of light on my patient’s cornea to get the pictures I needed, which turned out pretty good considering I couldn’t see through my viewfinder. Every time I clicked a picture, there would be a funny sounding ‘pop’ instead of the resonant ‘clack’ I was accustomed to hearing. We finished the procedure and then I walked her up to our checkout desk.

Luckily, my fellow photographer was at that location that day assisting with the doctor, so I called her into the photo room. I was hoping she would look at the problem and say, "Oh, you just have to flip this little switch here”, or something else mundane and easy. But after a couple minutes examining the camera, it seemed that would not be the case.

"What happened?” she asked.

"I dunno,” I said. "I was taking pictures, then just heard a click. Now it’s not working right.”

We took a screwdriver to the side panel, opened it up and looked inside. Everything looked fine, the filters seemed to be engaging and nothing seemed loose. We were at a loss. It was time to call our supervisor.

She came in and looked at things, advised us to take another part off and look inside, which we did and saw nothing out of the ordinary. My supervisor decided it was time to go to Defcon 4. She said she would tell the doctor that the camera was out of commission for now and told me to call technical support at the camera manufacturer. Things had moved beyond a simple equipment hiccup and looked more and more like a bigger hardware problem.

I did as I was asked and called the camera company’s tech support line.

If you’ve ever spent time on the phone with tech support for anything, you know that I didn’t have a good time. To be fair, the technician on the phone was pleasant, but there’s always the list of things they make you do, going down the troubleshooting list. Upon doing everything he asked of me and putting me on hold a couple times, he determined that we would have to send the camera in to be repaired.

This meant that our camera would be gone for a minimum of three weeks. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to tell a retina specialist that his fundus camera would be gone for three weeks, but suffice to say it was not a smooth conversation. The camera company informed us that we were not under warranty and therefore did not have a loaner camera to give us while they repaired ours. My clinic supervisor then got on the phone with them and paid no small fee for the extended warranty only to be told that they still did not have a loaner camera.

We found an old fundus camera in storage from years ago that we pulled out and prayed would be compatible with our photo program on the computer. So I had to dismantle the broken camera, prepare it to be shipped out for service, and install the new camera, all during clinic hours.

As of today we are up and running with our backup camera, which has its own quirks and isn’t completely compatible with the system we’re running, but we’re making do. It’s amazing how the unexpected loss of a primary diagnostic tool can send the clinic into scramble mode to get things rectified, and this time I found myself in the center of the maelstrom.

Have you ever found your clinic compromised by malfunctioning hardware? How did you handle the situation? Tell us your stories.


Matt Price is a retinal angiographer at Mid Florida Eye Center in Mt. Dora, Florida. He has been taking ophthalmic photos since 2010.

Tags:  blog  cute  education  funny  Meaningful Use  New Life  PDC 

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