CHI Health Midlands recently opened its new Healing Pavillion for the VA Community Living Center housed in the facility.
The pavilion at the Papillion hospital was dedicated on June 14 with several veterans and community members in attendance.
“(The veterans) were excited to be a part of it. People were so kind and made the veterans the star of the show, even though their role was just to be there,” said Cati DeMasi, a recreation therapist with the VA. “People were so welcoming, asking them about their experiences in the military and at home.”
The pavilion is the first of four phases in an outdoor space that was originally required as a part of CHI’s contract with the VA. It has grown from a 30-by-30-foot area into a multi-year project to include the pavilion, a butterfly garden and art from the community.
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“Our veterans were absolutely thrilled,” DeMasi said. “It gives them a reason to get up in the morning and keep going.”
The Community Living Center is a short-term skills rehab facility, but some of the veterans are in their care for longer periods of time, and DeMasi says there have been veterans in the pavilion almost every day since its opening.
The pavilion was designed to be accessible for all the patients, whether they’re confined to beds and wheelchairs or are able to walk on their own.
“Either the recreational therapists or one of the physical therapists comes down and takes them around the garden,” said Tami Denton, vice president of patient care services at Midlands Hospital. “They can sit outside, they can enjoy the air, and it’s been wonderful. They’re here anywhere from 30 to 90 days, that’s really a long time to be cooped up, so this way they can enjoy the outdoors.”
Butterflies can already be seen throughout the space, from the bench at the entrance designed by local artist Ginna Elyea to the statue in the center of the pavilion, even before the planned addition of the butterfly garden in the later phases of the project. There will also be a flag garden honoring all six branches of the military.
The final phase will connect the bench and the entrance to the pavilion and the garden, creating a unified outdoor space just outside of the hospital. There are plans to include many statues donated by members of the community within the garden.
Denton also said the community was vital in the creation of the space, especially the businesses in the community that helped with its construction.
Behind the pavilion is a small basketball court, which was donated by Veterans United and has been used by patients and staff alike, according to Denton.
The pavilion is open to all members of the community, and Denton said she hopes to see more people come out for a visit to enjoy the space.
“One of the greatest things I’ve seen out here was, up in my office, which is right above (the pavilion), I could see down here and there was a little girl and her dad out here flying a kite and I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly what we want out here,’” she said.
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