Jessie inspires gardening joy for stroke rehab patients in Fairfield General

18 October 2023

Patients admitted to the Ward 20 stroke rehabilitation unit at Fairfield General Hospital can now take part in outdoor gardening in a new space created for them.

The brainchild of the unit’s activity coordinator Jessie Simpson, the garden came to life after patients – who can be on the ward for a number of weeks – spoke about how much they missed being outside.

Jessie said: “As activity coordinator I get to know our patients and had heard many mention how much they miss being outside, having worked or enjoyed activities in the outdoors prior to being admitted to hospital.

“When taking patients off the ward for a change of scenery I found there wasn’t a suitable outside space where they could get fresh air and spend some time away from the ward, either with me or with their visitors.”

Concerned about the impact of this on the wellbeing of patients, Jessie set about finding a solution. She said: “I looked round the hospital grounds and found a space that caught my eye opposite Ward 20 quickly spotting that although a bit of a walk away, there was an entrance that gave patients easy access.”

Gaining approval for the work was followed by a summer raffle organised by Jessie to raise funds for plants and materials. Donations also came from colleagues and patients’ relatives, as well as a sizeable donation by the Heap Bridge B&Q for soil, plants and bulbs. One of the hospital’s porters helped by moving in a bench that was unused in another space and Ward 5 helped out with some plant pots.

“Patients enjoyed being involved in the whole process,” Jessie said. “Every time we’d go out to plant or rearrange, they would come out to help – just loving being outside or helping with decisions on where to put things, as well as happily taking part in cleaning up the garden.”

“I also organised a group activity where patients would plant the bulbs using garden tools, which is not only good for their wellbeing but an opportunity to use their upper limbs as part of their therapy.”

Comments such as this from one patient who was there from when the gardening began: “Thank you for creating the garden and letting me help” show how much patients are benefitting from the space, while family members talk about giving their loved ones “days to remember”.

But the project doesn’t stop there. Next steps for Jessie include getting a side door installed so that there’s no need to walk as far to reach the garden space, as well as an outside tap or hosepipe so that patients who wish to, can help water the plants.

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