Gardening therapy for amputee patients

Patients at the Amputee Rehabilitation Unit have been enjoying weekly gardening groups, thanks to generous donations.

Patient with staff enjoying outdoor gardening
Chris Hill, a patient enjoying the gardening group

Patients at the Amputee Rehabilitation Unit have been enjoying weekly gardening groups, thanks to generous donations.

The groups are a fantastic way to help them move forward, both physically and psychologically, in their journey towards going home.

Ray’s story

Ray Murrell has been at the rehab unit, which is based in Kennington, for four weeks following a long stay of over six months at St Thomas’ Hospital. A diabetic ulcer in his little toe meant he needed to have it removed, but various complications led to many more operations and, ultimately, the amputation of his left leg to below the knee.

Ray’s time at the rehabilitation unit is to help him prepare for having an artificial limb – also called a prosthesis. Once he has it and can function well, he can go home to his wife and two British bulldogs.

‘Most people come in a wheelchair and then six weeks they later have a prosthesis,’ explains Nicky Hughes, occupational therapist at the Amputee Rehabilitation Unit. ‘That’s why the gardening group is really good – because it’s for wheelchair users as well as those that have a prosthesis.’

Ray has been to the gardening group a number of times during his stay. The group is held in the lovely outdoor grounds of the unit, and is a chance for patients to get away from the ward and gym, and spend time outside.

‘I like coming to the gardening group – I find it interesting,’ says Ray. ‘I don’t mind what I do here; it just keeps your mind going, it really does. And they’re a very nice lot of people.’

Building confidence and strength

The weekly gardening group is run by rehabilitation assistant, Joe Scoble. He sees huge benefits for patients’ recovery, both psychologically and physically.

‘Often people have had their confidence knocked,’ says Joe. ‘They’re not sure what they’re going to be able to do after they’ve had their amputation, or how it’s going to affect their employment. So a group like this shows them that they can do things practically and starts to help them see what they can manage when they go home.
‘There’s also the core skill of strength that you need to be able to stand to do certain things. Not all the gardening tasks are going to be done in the wheelchair, so those who can stand will do some standing. It can help people learn to trust their prosthesis, which can be a struggle for some.’

A little luxury

The Amputee Rehabilitation Unit is a 12-bed centre that provides specialist rehabilitation for adults who have had major limb amputation. The service offers up to seven weeks’ intensive rehabilitation in purpose-built facilities, with the aim of enabling patients to return to functional independence as quickly as possible and preparing them for return to the community.

Donations have helped provide the things that make the gardening group possible, such as plants, compost and tools.

‘To be able to have the extra funding for stuff like this is a real luxury,’ says Joe. ‘The group really helps the patients; it’s something different from the daily sessions in the gym. It’s really beneficial to them, and something that we wouldn’t be able to do without donations.’

Groups like this wouldn’t be able to run if it wasn’t for generous donations.

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