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St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and Eisenhower Center build first accessible hoop house for rehabilitation patients
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St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and Eisenhower Center build first accessible hoop house for rehabilitation patients
Brain injury patients will receive agritherapy and work-life training

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – (May 13, 2013) – St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and the Eisenhower Center, which provides outpatient services and residential programs for those recovering from traumatic brain injury, have collaborated to design and build the first accessible clinical hoop house in the U.S. at the Farm at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor hospital. The hoop house will provide therapy to both Eisenhower Center patients and St. Joseph rehabilitation patients, many who are recovering from stroke or injury from accidents.

“Functional activities like agritherapy are great for anybody in rehab, “ said Christine Myran, vice president of programs at Eisenhower Center. “It helps shorten length of hospital stay and fights depression. No matter how much you’re injured, there is always something you can do to contribute on a farm.”

Jointly owned by St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and the Eisenhower Center, the idea for the hoop house collaboration came about eighteen months ago when St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor staff toured the Eisenhower Center’s hobby farm in Manchester, Mich., to see how it was being used for rehabilitation.

“We started talking to the Eisenhower Center and our rehab department at the hospital about the clinical possibilities for patient care at the Farm,” said Dave Raymond, director of planning at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. “One of the greatest things for rehab patients is to be able to go outside and have that outlet of a garden space.”

Many of the hospital’s brain injury patients are later transferred to the Eisenhower Center, and it seemed natural to bring them back to the hospital campus through trips to the Farm, said Raymond.

The hoop house, a solar-heated greenhouse that allows fresh produce to be grown year round, has been built by both St. Joe’s and Eisenhower Center staff and some of the brain injury patients. Features include raised vegetable beds as well as unique Ferris wheel-like rotating planter boxes that can be easily turned by those in wheelchairs. Sliding bed drawers and vertical gardens enable plants to be accessed while maintaining four feet wide walk space for wheelchairs.

"An inclusive garden is one in which the social, emotional and physical factors of a given environment are welcoming to all ability levels," says Jeremy Hodges, production coordinator at Eisenhower Center, whose background in landscape design and construction management has helped shape the hoop house.

The modular hoop house is designed in three distinct sections using a range of flooring materials including artificial grass, cedar and recycled crushed granite. The garden will include herbs, vegetables, flowers and fruit trees—a first for the Farm.

Decorated in ceramic tiles handmade by patients, the hoop house will contain kid-friendly features including a fairy garden and fairy doors, birdhouses and a Hobbit House, a life-size dome house partially hidden by plant materials.

“If children from Pediatrics want to come down we want it to be really fun--like a hands- on museum-- where everything is touchable,” said Myran.

A wind bike will be used to power a variety of processes from a watering pump to supplementing the power used to operate the lights. A water retention system will be used to capture and reuse rainwater through a four feet tall copper-faced waterfall on one wall. The goal is to make the hoop house completely self-sustaining through the use of rainwater and solar heating.

The hoop house’s close proximity to the hospital is ideal for both inpatients and outpatients who receive care through the St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor rehabilitation program.

“The hoop house is a unique and beautifully designed facility that will be a stepping stone for patients towards greater independence,” said David Steinberg, MD, medical director for rehabilitation services and vice chair for the department of internal medicine at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. “So many of us use gardening for spiritual renewal and as a stress reliever. There’s nothing better than putting food on your table that you grew from seed.”

In addition to therapy, the hoop house will provide valuable work experience for the brain injury patients at Eisenhower Center, under the guidance of staff. Patients will be paid for their work on the Farm. In addition to tending the garden, patients will learn how to market and sell the produce during the regular Farmer’s Market that takes place in the main lobby of St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor.

“Occupational therapy is no longer something that just fills your time,” said Myran. “Our clients are learning micro businesses that allow them to contribute again. The satisfaction that comes from producing something useful builds self-confidence. It is also literally rebuilding cognitive processing to help patients problem solve, learn new information and communicate.”

The Farm at St. Joe’s was started in April 2010 to give patients, visitors and associates the opportunity to understand the link between food production and food-related diseases, while supplying healthy, locally produced food. In addition to providing produce for patient meals and the hospital’s Farmer’s Market, the Farm is a venue for students, patients, volunteers and staff to transform their relationship to food and each other.

The Farm has been incorporated into patient education through the work of Lisa McDowell, manager of clinical nutrition, who views the Farm as a living laboratory to help teach the community about healthy soil and food, which ultimately contributes to a healthier community.
To date, the Farm has harvested just over 10,000 pounds of food since it began in 2010—donating 3,277 to food bank programs such as Food Gatherers. Vegetables produced by the farm include spinach, kale, tomatoes, herbs, broccoli, lettuce, garlic, collard greens and peppers.

Each year, the hospital serves 50,000 inpatients and another 650,000 who come to the hospital for outpatient procedures and appointments, as well as 6,700 employees.

Rob Casalou, president and CEO of St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and Livingston hospitals, has been instrumental in supporting local health and wellness initiatives such as the Michigan’s Good Food Charter, which aims to source food purchases to local growers. He also signed the Health Care Without Harm healthy food initiatives, which promises to work toward developing sustainable food systems as well as model healthy food practices.

“Our commitment to health is not simply medical, we aim to enrich the entire range of well being: mind, body and spirit,” said Casalou. “Adding clinical rehabilitation takes the Farm to a new level.”
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About Saint Joseph Mercy Health System
Saint Joseph Mercy Health System (SJMHS) is a health care organization serving six counties in southeast Michigan including Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne. It includes 537-bed St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, 443-bed St. Joseph Mercy Oakland in Pontiac, 304-bed St. Mary Mercy Livonia, 136-bed St. Joseph Mercy Livingston in Howell, 119-bed St. Joseph Mercy Port Huron and 113-bed Chelsea Community Hospital. Combined, the six hospitals are licensed for 1,726 beds, have six outpatient health centers, four urgent care facilities, more than 25 specialty centers; employ more than 14,000 individuals and have a medical staff of nearly 2,700 physicians.

A member of Trinity Health, the nation’s fourth largest Catholic health care organization, SJMHS is committed improving the health of its communities by reinvesting its profits back into the community through new technologies, vital health services, and access for all. The hospitals of SJMHS provide approximately $100 million in community benefit to the communities it serves each year.

For more information on health services offered at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, please visit