Boone Hospital Center healing garden provides an escape from stress

Friday, June 8, 2012 | 4:58 p.m. CDT
Boone Hospital Center celebrated the opening of its Healing Garden on Friday morning. The garden, which was built with around $220,000 in donations, offers a place for patients and families to escape the hospital atmosphere.

COLUMBIA — The rush of the waterfall cancels out the sounds of the world, and if you close your eyes, it feels like you have escaped to a secret oasis buried in the woods.

Lush landscaping and trees surround the stone path that leads to a brief escape from reality and allows you to forget your stresses. And just for a moment, you forget you’re between the central and south towers of Boone Hospital Center.

This is exactly what Barb Danuser, executive director of Boone Hospital Foundation, said was the idea behind Boone Hospital Center’s new healing garden.

“If you have ever visited a hospital, you know what it’s like,” Danuser said. “It’s stressful. If you can step outside and feel like you are wrapped in nature, it can be very calming.”

Friday morning, hospital staff celebrated the completion of the healing garden with a breakfast in the space. Construction of the garden was started in September.

The healing garden is meant to provide patients, visitors and hospital staff members with an escape from the stresses that go along with being in the hospital, said Jacob Luecke, media relations manager for the hospital. It allows them to have a moment to themselves and to forget what is going on inside.

Before the healing garden was officially opened, Nancy Schuenemeyer, a nurse in the education department, said it provided one patient with a special moment she wouldn’t have been able to have otherwise.

A woman on the oncology floor had recently become a grandmother, but she had not yet met her grandchild. The woman’s daughter did not want to bring the newborn into the hospital, where she could easily contract an illness. The healing garden provided a peaceful and safe place for the woman to be introduced to her grandchild.

Even though the garden isn’t always used for moments as special as this, it provides a space for families to relax and for staff members to eat lunch, work or briefly escape by strolling through it.

Hospital Coordinator of Spiritual Care Services Chuck Barsamian’s office window looks out onto the garden. He said it is in use everyday, all day long. Barsamian said he thought nothing better could have been done with the space between the central and south towers of the hospital.

“When I watch through my window and watch patients be brought down here with their wheelchairs and IV poles, I know it is very inviting,” Barsamian said.

Luecke said healing gardens date back to the Middle Ages and were a very important part of the therapeutic process during that time.

Over time, hospitals started to drift away from this to become more sterile environments. However, Luecke said recent research has shown that there are real benefits reaped from healing gardens. Boone Hospital Center is one of many hospitals in the nation that are starting to provide natural environments for patients and visitors to use.

Danuser insists the healing garden would not have been possible without generous donations from 280 businesses, physician groups, individuals, families and employees that reached a total of more than $220,000.

Donors were given the chance to have bricks, benches, wall panels and other items engraved in the garden. 

The engravings include messages honoring a caregiver or a loved one who died, celebrating a time in life or the birth of a baby, as well as motivational quotes.

The pediatrics and intensive care nursery staff donated one of Danuser’s favorite bricks. It reads, “Little feet leave big imprints on our hearts.”

Other bricks provide uplifting quotes and sayings to encourage patients and visitors during their stays at the hospital.

Different musicians will be playing in the healing garden throughout the summer, and free Wi-Fi is available there. The doors to the garden are located to the left of the main entrance of the hospital.

Supervising editor is Jake Kreinberg.

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