How To Help

To donate to the San Juan Rehabilitation Hospital s garden project, send a check to the San Juan Medical Foundation at P.O. Box 110, Farmington, NM 87499.
Indicate on the check that the funds are to be designated for the Rehabilitation Hospital garden project.
Organizers are available to speak to community groups about the project.
For information, contact Barbara Cole at 505-330-9597.

FARMINGTON — It's been nearly six months since the San Juan Regional Rehabilitation Hospital hosted a grand opening celebration to mark the completion of major renovations to its interior space.

Now, the facility hopes to continue its facelift by constructing a therapeutic garden to provide spiritual and physical healing for patients.

The 16-bed hospital — the only in-patient rehabilitation facility in the region — is located at 525 S. Schwartz Ave., across from the main hospital building. It has operated for more than 20 years and provides rehabilitation therapy to patients with conditions like traumatic brain and spinal injuries, stroke, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.

Before the facility opened in Farmington, patients with these conditions were flown to larger cities like Albuquerque or Denver, Colo., for in-patient rehabilitation. Now, treatment at the facility allows patients to stay in their homes and near their families.

So far, organizers have raised $30,000 for the garden project. They need to raise an additional $45,000 to complete the garden within the year.

"We're hoping to get going on the garden, so patients and staff can enjoy it at least by the end of this summer," said Barbara Cole, the rehabilitation hospital's board chairwoman. "The actual creation of the garden won't be that time-consuming, but it has to be totally fenced and secure, with access codes for safety of the patients."

The garden will run along the west and south sides of the facility. In addition to aesthetic comfort to patients, it will also provide therapeutic benefits, Cole said.

"Many of these patients are dealing with real-life challenges, and after they receive intense therapy, they have to face the outside world," Cole said. "So the garden will have different types of surfaces, like stone, grass and pavement, that the therapists can help the patients with to help them return home."

Cole said the garden will also offer a raised growing area where patients can do their own gardening, and there will be two bubbling water features that will add to the soothing atmosphere.

Sue Clay, the San Juan Rehabilitation Hospital's program director, said seeing the garden from inside the facility will also benefit patients and staff.

"We live in an ideal place to access the outdoors, and people in rehab tend to get cabin fever," she said. "It's nice to have a place where they can get outside and get fresh air while they visit with family members."

Clay agrees the physical therapeutic effects of being able to "practice" on different outdoors surfaces will help rehabilitating patients.

"It will be a good training ground to help them improve their mobility skills, and those in wheelchairs can practice going across bumpy surfaces," she said.

Leigh Black Irvin covers health for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4610 and Follow her @irvindailytimes on Twitter.