DOWNERS GROVE – As doctors and nurses at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital has installed a place to reflect on and appreciate the experiences of its workers, the patients they treat and their families.
The hospital on Oct. 19 dedicated its healing garden, located in an area right outside the main entrance.
The space, which is open to patients and visitors during visiting hours, is a place where patients and team members "can come to be strengthened, seek courage and find peace," Good Samaritan said in announcing the healing garden.
Advocate Aurora Health, which has discharged more than 10,000 patients at its hospitals across Illinois and Wisconsin after treating them for COVID-19, according to its website, has built similar healing gardens throughout its hospital system.
"These are very difficult and challenging times, and the difficulties and challenges vary by the individual. We are in this together," said the Rev. Marilyn J.D. Barnes, vice president of Mission and Spiritual Care for Advocate Aurora Health, of which Good Samaritan is a part. "This space says we acknowledge that this is a difficult time. This is a space where you can come and not feel isolated and alone. This can give you a space where you can feel healing, a hug and a warm embrace."
Good Samaritan on Oct. 19 held a socially-distanced remembrance service at 10:19 a.m. to dedicate its healing garden. It was a continuation of the Advocate system's COVID-19 reflection and remembrance that it started on May 19, a simultaneous pause for 19 seconds on the 19th of every month.
Barnes said that the healing garden, with a tree, benches and a brick walkway and wall, provides a time "where we can all be together and unified, people who are working virtually, a way of unifying and reinforcing that we are in this together."
"That is what these spaces are for, and also for people's well being," Barnes said. "Our health care workers are constantly going, from the time their shift starts to the time they go out the door. We want them to come to have a space where they can come and reflect, and tell them how grateful we are of them."
Every hospital in the Advocate system had a different vision of its garden. The recommendation was to have a bench and tree, an opportunity to sit, reflect and give pause to the process.
Good Samaritan ended up with the biggest garden across the Advocate system, with two benches, a tree and brick work.
"As Good Samaritan the timing was fortunate for us; there was a space outside the hospital that needed a little bit of TLC," said Ally Regnier, vice president of development Advocate Lutheran General Hospital which also oversees Good Samaritan. "We were able to take the opportunity with this garden to beautify a space that is very close to the entrance way to the hospital."
Regnier noted the distinction from a memorial garden to a healing garden.
"It's a chance for people to recognize the people that have fought the good fight and that continue to fight the good fight," Regnier said. "It's a space where you can try at least for 10 or 15 seconds to exhale and find peace for a short time. We wanted each hospital to have a visual reminder that they acknowledge how hard it is for health care workers to get through this. There is only so much a hospital can do to wrap their arms around their teams as a while. This is one little step we can take."
Regnier has already seen people sitting on the bench. She hopes that these spaces serve as a physical reminder, once the pandemic passes, of how challenging this time was and how courageous everyone was.
"For me personally and professionally, I am hopeful that this will be a space whether you walk out the door and see it or come up the ramp, it encourages you to take a pause and feel that you are not alone, that someone cares for you, that you are appreciated and valued," Barnes said. "That is what I am hopeful this space does."