A Healing Garden for nurses, patients and family

Legacy Health is a non-profit health system providing health services across six campuses in Portland, OR. Across these sites, Legacy emphasizes patient, family and employee centered care through nature-based programming. The Legacy Emanuel Medical Center installed a terrace garden in 2014 through the Nature Sacred Award program. In addition to the Nature Sacred research investigating health outcomes, this four-season terrace garden connected to the Family Birth Center and Cardiovascular Care Unit provides healthful experiences for all who enter. Shared below, this Daisy Award 2015 nomination story was submitted on behalf of two Legacy Emanuel Medical Center nurses who incorporated the Terrace Garden in an extraordinary way on behalf of their patient.

The Daisy Foundation recognizes nurses for clinical excellence and “…celebrates nurses who provide extraordinary compassionate and skillful care every day…”. 

“Hannah was on a ventilator for several weeks for respiratory failure but her condition continued to deteriorate and the family decided to transition her to comfort care.”

Patient enjoying the view from the overlook.
Patient enjoying the view from the overlook.

Her nurses for the last few days of her life were “Mary” and “Betty”. On a Friday in early June, the decision was made to remove her from life support that coming Sunday. Mary was her nurse on that Friday. She talked with Hannah’s parents about how they wanted to proceed on Sunday and Hannah’s mom wanted more than anything for Hannah to be out in the sunshine, to wear a pretty dress, and to taste chocolate one more time.

Hannah’s attending physician and Mary discussed the possibility of removing life support in the Emanuel Terrace Garden. They showed the garden to Hannah’s parents and they immediately knew this would be perfect. Mary talked with hospital Security and worked out all the details for Sunday’s service.

Patient and her caregiver enjoy the serenity of the garden.

Betty was Hannah’s nurse on Saturday and she gave the family the permission they so needed to go home and rest and assured them that she would care for Hannah on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was Mary’s day off and, instead of relaxing at home with her family, she went to the store and bought chocolate ice cream and a beautiful dress in Hannah’s favorite color, lavender.

On Sunday, Betty and Mary were Hannah’s nurses. First thing in the morning, they washed and styled her hair and put the dress on Hannah. Her parents and the rest of the family arrived later that day and Hannah’s mother was very upset that she had forgotten to get a dress for Hannah. To her surprise, she saw her daughter in a pretty new dress with her hair styled and looking absolutely beautiful.

Mary, Betty, Hannah’s physician and her entire family gathered in the Terrace Garden which had been secured for the service and their privacy. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. Hannah’s favorite music was played, she was given some chocolate and, with family all around supporting her, the ventilator was removed. Hannah passed in the comfort of her family, caregivers and the garden. It was perfect in every way.

Betty later texted her supervisor: “Just leaving work a little early. My ‘nurse tank’ is full of love today for this opportunity. It was such a meaningful day.’

Note: The photos used for this story do not depict participants mentioned herein. Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the patient and their family as well as hospital staff.