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‘The moment we’ve all been waiting for': Young cancer survivor leads groundbreaking at Primary Children’s Hospital Lehi

LEHI — With exuberance in his voice and hope for the future on his mind, Payson Inkley’s shout of “Let’s break some ground!” ushered in a new era for pediatric health care in Utah.

“It’s time for the moment we’ve all been waiting for – the turning of the dirt!” announced Payson, who is 10 years old and a leukemia survivor.

Payson was leading a virtual groundbreaking celebration marking the formal launch of construction of Primary Children’s Hospital Lehi, a new pediatric hospital campus that will bring world class care closer to home for many thousands of Utah children. The new hospital is the centerpiece of Intermountain Healthcare’s comprehensive plan to become America’s model children’s health care system, and will improve access to highly advanced medical care for young patients with critical needs in rapidly growing Utah County.

At the virtually hosted groundbreaking program on Nov. 19, Intermountain CEO Marc Harrison said the Lehi campus will bear the name of the Larry H. and Gail Miller family, in recognition of a $50 million donation toward the new hospital from renowned Utah business icon and philanthropist Gail Miller.

“We believe that this gift, and the hospital that it will facilitate, will affect the health and happiness of families, children and communities for generations to come,” Harrison said.

Intermountain also operates Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, a nationally recognized hospital that first opened in 1922. Functioning under the same commitment to excellence as the Salt Lake campus, Primary Children’s Hospital Lehi will offer important services such as newborn intensive care, trauma/emergency care, behavioral health treatment, physical therapy, infusion therapy and much more. Jacobsen Construction was selected to build the hospital and surrounding campus, which will be finished in 2023.

“We are grateful to partner with Intermountain Healthcare to build a world-class and innovative children’s hospital that will bring the best possible medical care for kids closer to home for so many families,” said Jacobsen Construction Project Manager Gary Krutsch, who is overseeing all work at the site. “We recognize the special opportunity we have in front of us to make this project a labor of love. We know the quality of our work will one day benefit young patients receiving the most important care of their lifetimes in the very spaces we are constructing.”

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Payson Inkley is one such patient whose life was changed by the care he received at Primary Children’s Hospital, making the groundbreaking of the new campus a particularly meaningful occasion for him. Payson was diagnosed with leukemia in 2017, just a few days short of his seventh birthday.

“It never really terrified me, because I knew that the doctors had a plan,” Payson said. “After 889 days of fighting, I became a cancer survivor.”

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Several other young Utahns who have used the services of Primary Children’s Hospital joined Payson in leading the groundbreaking with a ceremonial turning of the dirt, using shovels painted with beautiful and hopeful depictions of mountain scenery, wildlife, dogs, autumn leaves and more. Each shovel presented a theme “such as strength, happiness and endurance,” and all of them “reflect hope and healing through a child’s eyes,” Payson said. Joined by Intermountain leaders, as well as Gail Miller and Lehi Mayor Mark Johnson, the children raised triumphantly raised their shovels high in the air in a heartfelt celebration of what’s to come.

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“It is remarkable to think about the care and compassion offered to families when they are faced with the exceedingly difficult medical situation of a child,” said Mayor Johnson. “I speak from personal experience, having both a son and a daughter requiring their services. I could not have been more happy or grateful for the wonderful care they provided.”

In part because of his own family’s experiences with Primary Children’s, Johnson said, he couldn’t be more excited that the new hospital campus will call Lehi home.

“Few projects have generated the amount of interest that this hospital has — and frankly, the site could not be better,” Johnson said. “Located adjacent to a major transportation corridor, it has great access to the central crossroads of Utah. The area is filled with educational, recreational and technological opportunities! Simply put, this hospital will be situated in a very beautiful and very functional location.”

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Miller said she and her family, who have also experienced firsthand the crucial services offered by Primary Children’s Hospital, believe the Lehi campus will “impact the collective future of our whole state” and feel moved by the special opportunity to help make it a reality.

“I have witnessed how important it is to have the highest quality health care centers available that address the needs of children,” Miller said. “It’s also essential for the caregivers of our critically ill children to recognize what parents are going through, and at Primary’s they absolutely do. No parent wants to see their child admitted to a hospital, but I’m sure that every family that enters the doors of this facility will feel reassured that they are receiving the best care possible for their loved one.”

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