BIG SCISSORS – NSHC board member Alice Fitka wields the big scissors to cut the ceremonial ribbon at the dedication of the hospital’s new MRI machine. From left are Berda Willson, Native Village of Council; Alfred Sahlin of Nome Eskimo Community; Jean Ferris of Stebbins; Alice Fitka of St. Michael and Mathilda Hardy, Native Village of Shaktoolik.

NSHC dedicates MRI machine

Norton Sound Health Corporation on January 30 dedicated the new and ready to go MRI machine.
The device for taking detailed images inside the body represents a large step forward in providing care for the people of the region. MRI services are available on the road system, but the wait list can be long. With this new machine based in Nome, there will be less travel necessary and immediate attention given by local providers.
“This has been the board’s dream since 2007, 2008,” said Chairman of the Board Preston Rookok of Savoonga, St. Lawrence Island. “We were hit hard, especially on the island. We were losing something like eighteen patients a year in Gambell and Savoonga. And not only that our surrounding region was loosing lots of patients to cancer because of not having adequate equipment. Everybody had to travel to Anchorage to ANMC and their MRI machine was backlogged up to six months. These board members and the previous board members worked hard to make this a reality. I’m so happy to say our first patient will be seen next month.”
Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a type of scan that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to take pictures of the inside of the human body. The MRI machine is a large tube comprised of powerful magnets. The patient lies inside the tube while the scan is performed. Commonly looked at parts of the body include brain and spinal cord, bones and joints, breasts, heart and blood vessels, and internal organs such as the liver, womb or aorta.
MRI is a powerful tool, which gives the physician detailed and accurate information about the patient’s condition. An MRI scan is both safe and painless. There is no damage to the tissues of the body. Because of the power of the magnets people with internal pieces of metal, such as a heart pacemaker or an artificial joint, cannot use the machine. Claustrophobia from being inside the tube is often mentioned as a problem but mild drugs help patients deal with those fears. The inside of the machine is actually quite pleasant and it is open at both ends.
“It will help patients be able to stay in our region and not have to travel out of our region for an MRI,” said hospital radiologist Cathy DeAngelis in response to the Nugget’s question about what the machine is going to do for the community. “We do have a group of radiologists that reads for us. They’re called Alaska Radiology Associates and they are incredibly good. They read all of our images now and they will also read the MRIs.”
The machine and all that goes with it is fully installed in a section of the hospital built expressly for it.  “On March 4th our training begins,” said DeAngelis. “So we will have somebody here from General Electric who will begin. So we will start doing some patients that week. And then we’ll start regular patients the following week. So we have training patients and then we have real patients.”
“It’s a dream come true for all of us, it’s a dream come true for the whole region,” said Preston Rookok. “We’re hoping we can detect cancer early, in the first stages where it’s curable and we can help our patients in this region. I thank you all, I thank the board members, and I thank the past board members for their dream in making this a reality. And I also want to thank the admin staff and all that were involved in making this a reality. And I’m proud to say we are the first Native owned hospital in the nation to own an MRI machine. Thank you all.”

The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112

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