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St George’s Hospital in Tooting transforms old roof into a tranquil garden for intensive care patients

20th November 2019

St George’s Hospital Charity was thrilled to officially open the General Intensive Care (GICU) rooftop garden at St George’s Hospital in Tooting – with actor Jake Wood from EastEnders on hand to officially launch proceedings.

The rooftop space at the General Intensive Care Unit was in dire need of a bit of love. The old view from the ward, as well as from the relative’s waiting room, looked out over a flat concrete surface, with patches of moss and a couple of old broken pots. It was far from inspiring – especially for families who often spend weeks on end looking out the windows in the unit’s waiting room.

The past couple of years have seen two inspirational people come together to change this space from a dull concrete block into a green and tranquil oasis.   

During the summer of 2016, Miranda Duffy, a student of Ceramics at the Putney School of Art and Design, spent weeks visiting her mother Antonia at St George’s who’d suffered a bad fall. Following surgery, and a very touch and go period, Antonia spent 6 weeks in the General Intensive Care Unit – and Antonia spent 6 weeks looking out the windows at the bleak rooftop space.

She decided to do something about it. Miranda approached her fellow ceramic students to inspire them to brighten up the GICU space. Together they came up with the theme of seed pods, which cross all cultural and religious boundaries as a symbol of the circle of life, and many artists contributed pieces.

Jane Burdett has long had a passion for improving the experience for patients and families in the General Intensive Care Unit at St George’s Hospital. Jane founded Molly’s Smile Fund after losing her beautiful 19 year old daughter in 2015 after a short, gruelling battle with a rare blood disease. A week later she set up the fund as a lasting legacy to Molly. Jane and Molly’s Smile Fund had already refurbished the waiting room alongside GICU, which opened in March 2018. 

“This was a project to rejuvenate the uninspiring inner rooftop space (that we stared out at for 44 days as our respite from bedside vigil), has long been a big wish. It needed to be an immersive and thought-provoking distraction away from the tenuous, harrowing, and all-consuming worries for those caught up unexpectedly in GICU. May the garden be a place of great solace and positive reflection, renewal and restoration. May the sculptures inspire and encourage hope and regeneration around poignant and positive outcomes in our local NHS.” Jane Burdett, Molly’s Smile Fund

Jane was passionate about doing more at St George’s and the meeting of minds happened when she met Miranda. They combined forces to create the new rooftop viewing garden, which will help improve the difficult and highly stressful experience of Intensive Care for friends and family, along with giving patients something to distract and focus on.

Lindsey Izard, Matron, General Intensive Care Unit:

“The nature of the Intensive Care Unit means that friends and relatives of critically ill patients spend considerable amounts of time waiting in our visitor’s room.  It can be a highly stressful time for them and having an interesting, and thought provoking view, can really help to provide a moment of respite.  We are so grateful to both Miranda and Jane for working so hard to benefit future visitors to the hospital.”

The whole rooftop garden project has been funded by Molly’s Smile Fund and Miranda Duffy and supported by Enable Leisure and Culture, who managed the School on behalf of Wandsworth Council, and supplied the clay and the firing of the seed pods.

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