The healing gardens appearing in hospitals nationwide are designed with patients in mind, but chances are, few of the designers can say they've also got a patient's perspective on the project. Our Sarah Blazonis introduces us to a recent SUNY ESF graduate who says it was a devastating diagnosis that has him trying to change the way such spaces are planned.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It was pain in his leg that first made Kevan Busa head to the E.R. last May. He had no idea it would be the first of many hospital visits.
"In the emergency room, you know, the doctor looked at you and said you had a week and a half to live. So at that point, everything changed," said Busa, 24.
Busa was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He began treatment and soon realized that the nature he loved as a landscape architecture student at SUNY ESF was off-limits.
"If anyone brought a flower to your room, all the nurses would pretty much tackle that flower pot and get it out of the entire area because there's bacteria and dirt and disease," Busa said.
And it was the little things that kept him out of his hospital's healing garden. He had to stay out of the sun and the garden had little shade. The IV he had with him couldn't maneuver over the paved walkways.
So to keep up with school work, Busa did a research project on healing spaces and how they could be made accessible to more patients.
"You have to think very carefully about what you introduce, the plant materials used, the surfaces you use, whether there's shade or not and I, for one, as a designer, was never aware of a lot of those realities until he wrote his paper," said SUNY ESF Landscape Architecture Professor Richard Hawks, one of Busa's professors.
They're details more designers will likely have to consider. Hospital green spaces are a growing national trend, including here in CNY.
A healing garden is being built as part of construction of the new Upstate Cancer Center. Not only will patients be able to view outside scenes from infusion rooms, but the theme of the entire center will be 'healing through nature.'
"People recover faster, they feel better, they are able to heal more quickly when they come into contact with nature, either directly or, particularly, visually, in the case of most hospitals," said Upstate Medical University Facility Design Services Director Burton Thomas of the research done on the effects of nature on healing.
And Busa is working to bring attention to the patient's perspective. An article he wrote on his experience was published in Landscape Architecture Magazine in June, and this week he's speaking at the American Institute of Architects state convention in Syracuse.
"If you design a children's hospital, that's very, very different than if you design a veteran's hospital," said Busa. "So the way they go about designing those spaces, they need to get to know who they're talking to a little bit more, they need to get the know the caretakers."
Because as Busa knows, it's the little things that can make a big difference.
Kevan Busa did receive a bone marrow transplant last year. He says he's cancer free, doing well and now has a job in his field.