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Healing blooms at UPMC McKeesport

| Monday, Aug. 26, 2013, 10:13 a.m.
Carol Waterloo Frazier | Daily News
Physical therapy patients Mary Herr of White Oak, left, and Mathilda Benson of White Oak, enjoy one of UPMC McKeesport's flower beds with recreation therapist Dena Hornack, second from left, and hospital women's committee secretaryLinda Meredith.

There's something special about receiving flowers, especially if you're not feeling well, that makes you just a little bit better.

Therapy patients at UPMC McKeesport can attest to that pick-me-up power of brightly colored flowers and scented plants.

Two raised planting beds were placed on the patio at the hospital a couple months ago and patients receiving therapy were given the task of planting and caring for the flowers.

“This is a beautiful program,” Mathilda Benson, 93, of White Oak said of the project. “I used to garden a lot so this is nice. When I'm in the garden with the flowers I just feel happy.”

Another gardener and patient, Mary Herr of White Oak, is glad the flowers are there. “I love flowers. I always gardened at home so this gives me a chance to enjoy flowers when I'm here.”

Funding for the project was provided by the UPMC McKeesport Hospital Women's Committee.

“We are always looking for worthwhile projects to contribute to and they were looking for a way to do this gardening project,” women's committee secretary Linda Meredith said.

She worked with recreation therapist Dena Hornack to make the idea a reality. “Gardening was an interest for a lot of our patients and I thought giving them a chance to work with flowers again would be nice. It's a lifelong interest for a lot of the patients and this brings back a lot of memories for them.”

At the beginning of the year, each department has to come up with a goal, Hornack said. “I've wanted to do a horticulture program and this seemed like the right time to pursue it.”

The two women worked together to come up with a plan and the funding and in June the project came to fruition. The beds are at a height convenient for patients in wheelchairs. One of the beds is filled with colorful flowers, the other is a sensory garden with aromatic plants like basil, rosemary, mint and lavender. The lavender, Hornack said, will be used later in the year by patients to make sachets.

“I bring patients out as often as I can to water and deadhead the flowers,” Hornack said, noting flowers help “relieve a lot of stress of being in the hospital. Whether you're digging in the dirt or just looking at the flowers it's relaxing.”

Reflecting on the debut of the program, the therapist said she is surprised how well the two raised beds have been received. “I can't believe the feedback we have gotten from everybody about this. It's really been well received by staff, patients and visitors. People come out to the patio for lunch and enjoy the flowers and those walking by comment about how nice they are. This is something that everyone is benefiting from.”

Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1916, or cfrazier@tribweb.com.

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