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Back in early 1990, before Estonia regained its independence from the Soviet Union, my wife Helju and I were at an Estonian gathering in Syracuse, New York. Our friends Maie and Oleg Golubjatnikov mentioned that the Estonian American Fund (EAF) was looking for medical contributions to send to Estonia.  At the time Crouse Hospital, where I worked in the X-ray department, was replacing its CT scanner. The equipment still produced excellent images but it was too slow; and patients were backing up despite the machine being in use 16 hours per day.
We told Oleg that if the Estonian American Fund would agree to dismantle and ship the scanner to Estonia, we would try to get General Electric to donate it. Shortly, Oleg relayed an enthusiastic “yes” from EAF, and the scanner project was off to a fast start.
Had I known the complexity of the project I might not have mentioned it in the first place. However, we were lucky  to have the financial and logistical support of the dedicated and knowledgeable EAF and that of the three extraordinary individuals who completed the removal, shipping and reinstallation of the scanner. The Estonian community in Syracuse provided generous financial and in-kind support. 
GE agreed to donate the scanner contingent on our removing it before the scheduled date for installation of the new CT unit. Siim Aid was flown in from Tartu, Estonia. He, Oleg, and Dick Rossi disassembled the scanner, labeled and packed each component and had it ready to ship by the designated date.  Our radiology group was removing an identical scanner from our private office.  We donated it to be used for spare parts.  
A  political decision  at the Crouse hospital almost derailed the project before it started.While Siim Aid was already  en route from Tartu to Syracuse, the hospital controller informed me that he did not have the money to buy the new GE scanner; the project would have to wait  until  next year. ( A few days earlier he had assured me that everything was “okay”). After  my “ scathing“ letter to the hospital administrator and a heated conversation in his office, the money was reallocated to the GE scanner and the project was back on track.
Siim was a technically and intellectually talented engineer who spent up to 12 hours a day disassembling the scanner, and he would devote even more time to master the  computed tomography technology. Helju supplied room and board for him during his  stay.
Dick Rossi had done all of the repairs on the scanner for eight years. He taught Siim about the machine and flew to Tartu and spent a week to help with the critical alignment required for startup.  
Oleg Golubjatnikov was a brilliant engineer who assisted in the dismantling of the scanner and also facilitated communication between Dick Rossi and Siim Aid. His electrical engineering background and fluency in Estonian were essential to Dick Rossi and Siim Aid understanding each other.
We were gratified  that the scanner project, from  acquisition and disassembly in Syracuse to reassembly and succesful operation in Estonia, far exceeded our expectations.
A year later, Dr. Endel Sepp in Elmhurst, Illinois, obtained another CT scanner and X-ray cabinets that joined the Syracuse apparatus in providing much needed diagnostic service in Estonia. Oleg Golubjatnikov went on to design and manage a far-reaching medical technology development and training project. He continued to contribute to the health care reform in Estonia until his death in 2004.
Courtesy of Ago Ambre


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