Mother Nature’s Bond with David

Posted on 25/08/2016

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Testimony from David’s sister, Sue Moerman, Ottawa, Ontario (Canada).

I came home from brunch with friends one day in April, this year in 2016, to find a message from my brother David: “I’m in the hospital and I’ve just been diagnosed with Acute Leukemia.” So began a 6-week journey into the reality of seeing a loved one fight a dreadful disease in an environment totally foreign to his needs.

My brother lived on more than 8 acres of treed land and spent his days enjoying the outdoors. He loved animals and did not permit anyone to hunt the bears, deer, foxes, and other animals that rambled on his land. Any fish caught in the lakes that touched on his land were to be thrown back.

He lived happily but simply and, for 40 years, he spent many pleasant hours walking his land, paddling his canoe in summer and snowmobiling on the frozen lakes in winter. He built his own log cabin as a young man and, in his late forties, built himself a larger home, installed electricity, and heated with wood.

Due to the seriousness of his illness, David was given a single room whose only window looked out on the brick wall of another portion of the hospital. For about 10 days, while David went through chemo, staff and visitors were unable to touch him without gloves and a face mask. Flowers and plants were not permitted in the room.

He ached for a chance to see the trees and flowers and birds and to get away from the antiseptic hospital smell. He wanted to enjoy fresh air, sunlight, and the gentle breeze. Finally, after three weeks, I was allowed to take him outside and he returned to the grassy area every day after that.

He begged his doctors to allow him to go home and was finally allowed a one-week escape, while the results of his chemo treatments were assessed. Our brothers had stocked his fridge and cupboards, rebuilt his decrepit deck and I’d brought him two Adirondack chairs.

He settled into a chair, put his head back, closed his eyes, and murmured that he had never expected to be able to return home again. Over the next five days, he got stronger and stronger; it was the trees, the sun, the water and the sound of nature that helped him.

When we learned that further chemo would be required, he bravely agreed, even though we all knew his chances were slim. David lasted only 5 more days, and is now buried on his land.

Cancer made David weak, but nature gave him strength. It was the thought of returning home to all that he loved that gave him the courage to fight his battle. I had read studies, but this was the first time I have personally observed how fresh air, sunshine, greenery, and all aspects of nature help heal.

Now that I know this, I am more convinced than ever that hospitals, treatment centres, and all types of health facilities need to incorporate nature into their design. Many other countries have already recognized this simple fact.

When will we see this benefit incorporated into the design of every Canadian health facility?