Man Makes His Own X-Ray Machine After Hospital Charges Him $70,000

A man has built his own X-Ray machine after receiving a hospital bill of $69,210.32. But is it safe? Image credit: David Whidborne/Shutterstock.com, YouTube/hlpbgh

A man has built his own X-ray machine after receiving a hospital bill of $69,210.32. 

In a video, YouTuber Willam Osman starts picking out which of his possessions he's about to start selling to pay the debt. Thankfully, he'll only have to pay around $2,500 thanks to his "great insurance", but as he explains in the video many millions of Americans don't have the same plan. The bill apparently got him thinking: could he make his own X-ray machine for cheaper than what he was charged?

While the answer is a pretty clear "yes", there are definitely other factors you should consider before you try it for yourself. Mainly, do you want to blast yourself full of radiation? As the engineer puts it himself: "My will to do science is significantly stronger than my will to live," adding “this is my magnum opus. This is the most dangerous contraption I have ever built."

Osman collected what he needed for the machine: a $155 X-ray vacuum tube he recovered from a broken dental X-ray machine he bought on eBay, a giant roll of sheet lead, several Geiger counters and an electricity supply capable of delivering 60,000 volts. 

With the equipment, which came to much less than the hospital charged his insurance for his single X-ray, he was able to produce a pretty good image of a finger bone he happened to have lying around the house.

"That's actually pretty good," interventional radiologist Dr Michael Cellini said in a reaction video, though he pointed out it was nowhere near the standard of image that you'd receive in hospital – the high-quality you need for diagnosis. "I'm pretty impressed for just being in your garage," he said.

However, the radiologist (and other radiologists online) were less impressed when he chose to X-ray his own hand. Osman points out that the radiation that he'll receive from his X-ray is not as bad as a CT scan, or from a year of living your life being bombarded by background levels of radiation.

"The X-rays produced are not as bad as a CT scan – but that doesn't mean you should do it," Dr Cellini confirmed. "It is probably less than what you'd get from an annual background radiation dose. There is risk, but not as high as you'd think."

The video received less of an enthusiastic reaction from experts commenting on his video, where one wrote "[A]s a radiation safety officer at a materials lab, 80% of this video had me screaming internally", nor on the Radiology subreddit where a popular comment read "[E]very radiologist watching this is rolling their eyes so far back they can see their optic nerve."

Nevertheless, it's pretty impressive that it's possible to create your own X-ray machine in your garage for (relatively) cheap, even if it's useless for any diagnosis more complex than "your bones have been smashed to pieces", and if you keep blasting it at yourself you will eventually make yourself very ill indeed, where you will likely end up in hospital faced with a very large bill.

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