Rehabilitation service turning thumbs green

A man in a wheelchair and another man stand beside a raised vegetable garden bed
August 25, 2023

The Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) State Rehabilitation Service (SRS) is handing the trowel over to rehabilitation patients as another method of physiological and psychological therapy, particularly for long-term inpatients.

Accessible to wheelchair users and those with reduced mobility, the veggie pods were introduced by FSH Spinal Ward Senior Occupational Therapist Nicky Hunter and the SRS senior clinical team, to provide an opportunity for patients to use gardening as part of their physical therapy.

Located in the level one courtyard of the SRS, gardening with the veggie pods also enables patients to practise standing, improve hand function with adaptive gardening tools, improve sitting balance, wheelchair mobility skills and provides socialisation.

FSH Senior Occupational Therapist Joe Pagel was involved in introducing the veggie pods and explained that group activities, such as gardening, are a critical part of recovery following a serious injury, helping the patient return to a feeling of community and to a certain extent, normality.

“Gardening gives patients a reason to go outdoors, get some fresh air and allows a level of independence during a time when they are often entirely dependent on their treating team,” Joe said.

“We know gardening isn’t for everyone, so patients have other opportunities for psychologically and physiologically beneficial activities, such as art and craft and game activities, community access outings, incursions, yoga, and even cooking with some of the ingredients grown in our veggie pods.”

FSH rehabilitation patient Kym Menzies was the self-appointed 'chief waterer and garden looker after-er' while he was an inpatient at the FSH SRS for nearly five months, after prostate cancer attacked his spinal cord, leaving him without sensation below the waist and temporarily putting him in a wheelchair.

“I’m a really positive person and like to keep active and busy, so between my physio and keeping the garden alive during one of our scorching Aussie summers, I was kept occupied,” Kym said.

“I was doing physical therapy for three or more hours a day, six days a week, for 10 weeks – so getting out of the ward and into the fresh air of the garden was such a welcome break from an emotionally and physically draining time.

“It was great seeing some of our produce, which mainly consisted of various herbs and celery at the time, being used in cooking as well. We also hosted a BBQ lunch with our families, and it was really nice to share our harvest with them.

“I still go and check on the veggie pods when I visit FSH for my outpatient appointments.”

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