Young patients at Wales’ only children’s hospital are now able to play outside for the first time, thanks to a newly built play area, the Noah’s Ark Garden. A celebration was recently held to mark the opening of the garden and children, parents, staff and other dignitaries were all in attendance.
The garden play area was funded by the Noah’s Ark Charity, who donated £250,000, and the Welsh Government, who assigned £1.6m to the project. The area is fully accessible and full of vibrant colours. The playground area comes complete with a maze, palm trees and a therapy zone for its patients and their family. A lot of the play equipment has been specially designed to aid the children in a speedy recovery.
The hospital was opened in 2015 for the families of Wales and since then, it has treated thousands of children. It is the only children’s hospital where children can leave their beds and play freely with each other, rather than getting bored. Before the playground was constructed, there was nowhere in the hospital where young patients could play outside of their wards.
The design of the garden follows a jungle-inspired theme, with a huge spray-painted mural and real palm trees. During the evenings, the garden is lit by colourful LED lights. Children can enjoy slides, swings and a playhouse, among many other activities.
The Noah’s Ark Garden was built to be a place where children can forget about everything else and just enjoy themselves. The therapy zone is another important part of the garden. It’s used to provide physiotherapy to children outside in the fresh air, with the hope that they’ll feel more at ease.
Jo Clements, a senior nurse from the hospital staff, commented that “It’s got a lovely vibe. Some of the elements are for rehab and physio – different surfaces, different sensory components”.
A five-year-old patient, Neve, was also asked about the playground. She commented “I really like it… there’s lots and lots of stuff here”. A few weeks ago, Neve was admitted to the hospital because she lost the control of the left part of her body. She was examined and diagnosed with an inflammation of the brain called Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis, which was the reason for her paralysis.
Neve receives daily therapy from the hospital staff to help her to regain the complete control of the left side of her body. Neve uses the garden to practice her walking and to practice operating her wheelchair so that she can enjoy herself outdoors with the other children.
Natalie Gragasin, a physiotherapist at the hospital, said the garden makes therapy to look like play for the children, which is why they enjoy it. When children are at the hospital, they are often away from their family and siblings for long period of time, so the garden is a great place for children to make friends and enjoy each other’s company.
Bethan Simmonds of the Noah’s Ark charity added that “At the end of the day this is a children’s hospital and children have a right to be children whatever they’re going through”.