The following article was featured in the Summer 2016 issue of the Headliner, a newsletter published by the Brain Injury Alliance of Oregon. The publication can be viewed in its entirety HERE.
Last week I had the great pleasure of meeting with Teresia Hazen, a registered horticultural therapist who works at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center in Portland. We met at the Oregon Burn Center Garden located on the Legacy Emanuel hospital grounds where I was invited to attend a garden tour. While the garden is named for and focuses on helping burn survivors through their recoveries, it is also open and available for all patients, including brain injury survivors, to enjoy.
I have been an outdoor enthusiast for my entire life and some of my earliest and fondest memories are camping and backpacking with my dad in the open areas a short distance from where I grew up. From those humble camping trips I have been fortunate to have spent many incredible days and nights hiking and backpacking through some of the most beautiful and relaxing wilderness areas on the planet. In doing so, I am in the company of some great individuals, one being Ralph Waldo Emmerson.
Emmerson is rightly considered one of the fathers of the transcendentalist movement and his writings on the benefits of spending time in outdoors and appreciating nature for the beauty and serenity it affords have influenced millions of Americans over the past one hundred and fifty years to get out and explore the wilderness. Henry David Thoreau followed Emmerson’s lead and spent time on Walden Pond to significant effect. John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt built upon Emmerson’s advice and worked to protect some of the world’s most iconic landscapes. All of these visionary leaders were inspired by the peace and serenity they experienced while immersed in natural landscapes.
So, it is no surprise that there is a positive correlation between a tbi survivor spending time in a natural setting and that survivor’s ability to better cope with the struggles of recovering from a brain injury. The good professionals at Legacy know this and they have made great strides in providing natural areas for their patients to rest and recover. The Legacy Burn Garden at Emanuel Hospital is just such a place.
Teresia Hazen understands this well and she was kind enough to explain to me some of the benefits associated with spending time in such a garden setting. Before I explain those benefits, I should point out a couple of things that tie horticultural therapy into the law.
Lawyers know that one characteristic that truly impresses a jury asked to decide a tbi survivor’s case is the attitude expressed by the survivor. We all respond best to a person who exudes hope: hope for their recovery and hope for a better tomorrow. Whenever I can demonstrate a survivor’s desire for and action toward a hopeful future I know I have a better chance of prevailing in any given case.
Horticultural therapy’s benefits are well noted. Teresia provided me with a handout identifying some of those benefits including the following: Green spaces encourage physical activity and foster a greater positive effect on mental health than indoor settings. Exposure to a natural environment fosters psychological well-being and can reduce stress. One study found that higher levels of exposure to green spaces were associated with significantly lower levels of symptoms for depression and anxiety. Finally, people with access to nearby natural settings have been found to be healthier than individuals who don’t.
In other words, if a brain injury survivor has access to a green area (such as the Legacy Burn Garden) and visits that area, that survivor will likely benefit from those visits in ways that demonstrate hope for the future.
We, in Oregon, are blessed with a cornucopia of natural settings and we in the tbi survivor community should do all we can to encourage survivors to get out and experience nature wherever and whenever they can. The Emmanuel Burn Garden is just such a place and people like Teresia are there to ensure that the garden provides as much benefit to as many people as possible. As Emmerson so wisely noted, “the beauty of nature reforms itself in the mind.” That beauty is there for all of us to experience and is as close as a hidden garden at Emanuel Hospital on North Gantenbein Avenue.
David Kracke is an attorney with the Nichols Law Group (formerly Nichols & Associates) in Portland. Nichols Law Group has been representing brain injured individuals for over twenty two years. Mr. Kracke is available for consultation at (503) 224-3018.