On the very first day patients gained access to the Patrick R. Thomas, M.D. Therapy Garden at Christus Mother Frances Hospital – Tyler, Occupational Therapist Sara Martin saw the hope it could bring to those recovering from a stroke.

Located on the fourth floor of Ornelas Tower, the renovated garden features plants, flowers, vegetables and spices designed to awaken the senses. 

A section of the garden created to rouse patients’ sense of smell has lavender, rosemary, curry and patchouli. Another features vegetables that patients can harvest and taste.

On Tuesday, Martin watched as a stroke patient put more effort into tending to the garden than he usually does in some of his more traditional therapy sessions.

“In occupational therapy school, we learn that meaningful occupation-based activities are what are going to help your brain relearn,” Martin said. “Functional activities, such as gardening, loading your own dishwasher, being able to bathe yourself and dress yourself — those are the kind of things that help the brain learn new activities.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the garden on Tuesday to celebrate its opening. The garden will be used for patients’ physical therapy. 

Hospital staff, local dignitaries and Dr. Patrick Thomas and members of his family were present. 

Patients will find sections designed to help them test their sense of smell, taste, touch, sight and hearing. They will maintain the garden by watering, fertilizing, pruning and weeding.

In honor of Stroke Awareness month, several stroke survivors on Tuesday participated in planting items in the garden.

Christus Mother Frances Hospital - Tyler President Jason Proctor said the garden is another way the hospital is striving to fulfill Romans 15:1. “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves,” the scripture reads.

“Our patients in some instances are weak and we’re the strong in the lives,” Proctor said to the doctors, nurses and others at the ribbon cutting.

“This garden is just another way we are thinking about how to help the weak become strong,” he later added.


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