VA North Texas Health Care System
Spinal Cord Injury Veterans and their Green Thumb
While Industrial Hygienist Natalie Marjasovs performed her safety rounds in the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Center at Dallas VA Medical Center, she noticed the courtyard and greenhouse were in desperate need of attention. She coordinated with Engineering Service for plants and supplies, and the Motorpool, Carpenter and A/C shops got involved to bring the greenhouse area back to life. Her husband even joined her on weekends to show the area some love. During this time, SCI Occupational Therapists Marta Gonzalez and Tamara Russell were looking for a program to motivate in-patients in SCI to get active and develop interests that could produce both physical and therapeutic benefits. Hence, the SCI gardening group was formed.
Veterans with an interest in gardening tend the greenhouse, plant flowers, prune plants and make sure their handiwork gets watered. Army Veteran Troy Mathis served in Vietnam and loves working with his hands and getting them dirty. Other members of the SCI gardening group include Wayne Marsh who served in the Navy during Desert Storm, Steve Chavez, a Vietnam/Desert Storm Navy Veteran, and Mike Kirkpatrick, Army Veteran who served in Vietnam. All the Veterans shared that the program makes them feel good. “I feel normal again.”
A ramp was installed to make the greenhouse wheelchair accessible, and gardening tables at the appropriate height allow Veterans with spinal cord injury to enjoy a new hobby.
Now the SCI courtyard is a beautifully kept area that Veterans, their families and staff can enjoy. The brightly colored flowers love the sunshine and fresh air which turns out to be just what the doctor ordered for SCI Veterans in the gardening group as well!