OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) —A hospital in western Kentucky is offering a new kind of rehabilitation for some patients on the road to recovery: the chance to work outdoors in a garden. Owensboro Medical Health System allows patients receiving physical and occupational therapy to work for 30 minutes a couple of times a week in the hospital's herb garden.
Craig Butler, a therapist involved in the project, told the Messenger-Inquirer newspaper that the fresh air and light garden work can also help a patient's mood.
“Some of them have been in the hospital for months and they're just begging to get outside and do something,” Butler said. “I'm ready to do anything I can for the patients.”
If the weather is extreme, as it has been this summer, the sessions are early in the day.
The herb garden was first suggested a couple a years ago by Kurt Decker, a member of the hospital's landscaping team.
The hospital's maintenance manager, Eric Fulkerson, said he designed the planter as an above-ground Lazy Susan-style bed to allow easy access for those in wheelchairs.
“Occupational therapists are involved with the garden because they work a lot with the upper body, with gross motor and fine motor skills,” Decker said.
Occupational therapy involves working with people to re-learn everyday actions, such as bathing, cooking and brushing teeth. Physical therapy helps patients develop strength, endurance and balance.
Butler said the herbs grown in the garden include sweet basil, dill, sage, tarragon, Rosemary, thyme.
“Right now, the herbs are maturing and we go down and harvest some of them. The patients enjoyed seeing them sprout through the ground and note how much they've grown from day to day,” he said. “They take ownership of it.”
Lonnie Little, 81, who has spent the last month recovering from a broken hip, says he has enjoyed working in the garden over the last two weeks.
“I'm a retired steel mill worker and farmer. It always feels good working with soil. I love seeing things grow and getting out in the sunshine,” he said.