Chief Executive Officer Cindy Hixenbaugh, Ted Bendure and Joan Hall pull the ribbon.
Chief Executive Officer Cindy Hixenbaugh, Ted Bendure and Joan Hall pull the ribbon.
About a dozen people met in front of PGH’s emergency entrance last Friday morning. A trailer housing the new MRI scanner sat in the lot ready for tours. A silver ribbon crossed the entrance.

If you’ve ever torn a ligament, you probably had an MRI. Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanners use a magnet and radio waves to look at structures inside the body. Health care professionals use them to diagnose a variety of conditions, including cardiac.

MRIs got up and running clinically around 1980. They’ve been around awhile. Pershing General Hospital’s previous scanner earned the nickname “Bessie.”

“The old machine was becoming outdated and the trailer it sat on was also in need of repair,” said the hospital’s CEO Cindy Hixenbaugh.

County commissioner Carol Shank, Sheriff Jerry Allen, Carolyn Hultgren, Dana Tueller and others entered the lobby to learn about the new arrival. 

Darryl Sonenstein came from GE Healthcare. They developed the Signa Voyager 1.5 T to cut scan times in half and improve image quality. He said the scanner makes the experience less claustrophobic for patients and cuts down on noise. The patient can select and listen to music with headphones if they choose.

Hixenbaugh introduced Joan Hall, the president of Nevada Rural Hospital Partners (NRHP). In the past, she and her colleagues often asked themselves, “What are we going to do when “Bessie” goes to the bone yard?”

Hall and Eva LaBarge took action. They wrote a grant proposal to the William N. Pennington Foundation. The foundation awarded 1.5 million dollars for a state-of-the-art MRI in a state-of-the-art trailer. It’s been operational since August but the hospital had to delay the ribbon pulling due to Covid. 

The four hospitals named in the grant share the mobile scanner. Besides PGH, the hospitals are Battle Mountain General Hospital, Mount Grant General Hospital and South Lyon Medical Center. The scanner comes to PGH every other Friday.

“If our need increases, we can increase the number of days,” said Hixenbaugh.

She expressed gratitude to the Pennington Foundation. They’ve also awarded the hospital a grant of $1,025,103 for infrastructure – medical equipment, plant operations equipment, flooring and furniture.

They gave a $139,971 Covid grant for PPE, alternate care site equipment and medical equipment.

The group returned outdoors to the springlike weather for the ribbon pulling. Ted Bendure, the hospital board’s vice chairman, joined Hixenbaugh and Hall to do the honors.

People entered the trailer two at a time. They were greeted by Richard Krey, an MRI technologist with Perspectives Imaging. He pointed out the photographic murals that depict northern Nevada scenery. Perspectives also provides the driver. 

Overall, it’s easy to see how the atmosphere could soothe jangled nerves. It could also save patients an out-of-town trip while sick or injured.

“It is my passion to make sure this community has health care. The grants make new technology and equipment possible for a small rural facility such as ours,” said Hixenbaugh.