PEORIA — A small crowd gathered to watch as the old MRI machine at OSF HealthCare Center for Health — Glen Park was removed Monday morning.

The 10-year old machine, which will be replaced with a new, wide-bore MRI later this summer, had some fans. Among them was Mike Simmons, who retired last year after doing imaging for OSF HealthCare since 1973.

“I’m interested in seeing the magnet go out of the building,” said Simmons while watching workers prepare the forklift to hoist the 12,000-pound machine out through a hole in the wall. “That was the last remaining piece of equipment I worked on.”

Simmons saw a lot of changes during his career. He worked at OSF when they got their first CT scanner in 1976, and their first MRI machine in 1984.

“OSF was the first one downstate to get a magnet,” he said.

The MRI machine removed Monday was the first permanent open MRI machine OSF HealthCare acquired, said Jamie White, manager of CT and MRI outpatient diagnostics for OSF HealthCare.

“It’s definitely kind of bittersweet that it’s going away,” she said. White attended a small party held by the MRI staff on May 30, the last day the machine was used. She snapped a photograph of the staff posing with the machine, holding a giant cookie decorated with the words “We will miss you open MRI.”

Open MRIs are designed to be a friendlier alternative for people who suffer from claustrophobia. There is still one at OSF HealthCare Orthopedics — Downtown. The open machines are the only way some people can bear to undergo the test. For Glen Park, OSF has acquired a wide bore machine that has a larger tube than a standard MRI machine. It will be installed in a Caring Suite equipped with features designed to calm anxious patients — music, nature scenes and colored lights. The new machine also offers better resolution and quicker scan times.

MRI machines are a big deal to move, and experts from around the U.S. were flown in to get the job done right. Eddie Rivera, an engineer with ATI Advanced Technology out of Miami, disconnected the electricity on the MRI machine.

“I just took it off life support,” he said. “There is liquid helium in the machine. If you take if off life support it boils off. Right now it’s burning helium.”

Without power, about 10 percent of the helium will burn off in a single day. Since helium is very expensive, the people who bought the old machine want to lose as little as possible, Rivera said.

“It’s going to Arizona,” he said. “It’s going to a warehouse, where it will be plugged in.”

The machine will eventually be either refurbished or sold as-is, said Rivera.

The crowd snapped photographs from behind the safety barrier as workers eased the giant machine out of the building. With just a few inches to spare on either side, the machine was slowly pulled out into the light of day. The only damage appeared to be the parking lot, which suffered a big dent when the forklift came down the wooden ramp with its 12,000 pound load. A lightly damaged parking lot is not a big deal compared to damaging the MRI machine — new ones can cost as much as $2 million, said White.

“Yeah, they definitely don’t want to drop it.”

 

Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or lrenken@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.