The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

July 7, 2013

Water feature at hospital healing garden dedicated for former Rock Creek resident

Star Beacon

CHARDON — A water feature in the new courtyard healing garden at University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center was dedicated, Monday, to former Rock Creek resident Mary Ellen Blaha.

Blaha, who died suddenly in 2011, was a breast cancer survivor and the nurse coordinator at the hospitals UH Seidman Cancer Center Facility.

“Mary had a long career at the hospital,” said M. Steven Jones, president of UH Geauga Medical Center. “She was a dedicated nurse who worked closely with cancer patients as well as orthopaedic patients early in her career. She was considered family by our staff.”

The water feature dedication event officially completed the renovation of the courtyard healing garden, which is adjacent to patient floor 1 south and the hospital’s Orthopaedic Center. The garden had been in various planning stages for several years.

Its construction was fast-tracked following Blaha’s passing in 2011 and was completed as a result of coordinated fundraising efforts by UH Geauga Medical Center, the Blaha family and community donors including the Lisa and Bob Forino family and Phyllis Mihalic. The Mary E. Blaha Memorial Fund made a donation toward the water feature itself.

“It’s incredible to see our vision become reality, and know that we’re able to now use the garden in so many positive ways,” said Alan Graham, Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant of UH Geauga Medical Center.

Graham, along with Blaha, was a longtime proponent of the healing environment.

“The garden represents an opportunity to bridge the clinical and home environments, and offer patients and visitors a space that’s familiar, natural and life-affirming,” Graham said. “In addition to our patients using the space for physical, occupational and behavioral therapy, autistic children from area schools are coming in with their job coaches to work the landscape.”

The new water feature consists of a fountain with a two-sided waterfall and reflecting pool.

“Mary would have wanted the water to be heard and be more spectacular than a typical backyard fountain, and that’s what the hospital’s staff and leadership wanted to give to her and her family,” Graham said. “The water feature is a destination for patients and visitors.”

Augmenting that destination in the 50-foot X 70-foot garden are picnic tables, a planting table, raised flower beds, rocks and a mountain meadow-style terrain designed to engage and challenge patients of all ages on their path to recovery. Future enhancements include low-voltage lighting and an in-ground watering system.

“Mary loved the garden and was excited about what was happening there,” Graham said. “The realization of this garden and water feature dedication truly was a collaboration between UH Geauga Medical Center, the Blaha family and our community. Now we have a beautiful healing environment that people have the opportunity to touch and that touches people in return.”