Park at UPMC Mercy Designed to Help Patients Recover

By: Chuck Finder and Tim Betler

This picturesque green space isn’t your typical public park, even though passersby will notice patients enjoying a few moments in nature. 
Curb cuts and steep stairs? Cobblestones followed by gravel followed by dirt and mulch? Swooping, curving sidewalks?
Yes, this garden functions all at once as a UPMC Rehabilitation Institute place of respite and obstacle course of sorts. It’s a luscious oasis and a learning curve, right off Locust Street in front of UPMC Mercy.
“The UPMC Recovery and Rehabilitation Park’s purpose is to enable people to go through part of the rehabilitation, re-enter society learning skills that will help them to leave the hospital, through a great setting,” said Michael Boninger, M.D., director of the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute and chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. “We need to teach people higher-level skills.”
The 15,000-square-foot park opened in August thanks to a donation from the Walmart Foundation.
“Walmart donated that? Wow, that’s great,” said patient Roseanne Torisky of Dormont. “I think it’s wonderful. Just come out and enjoy nature. Just come out. “
Rehabilitation Institute physical therapists Randall Huzinec, Seth Pierson and Elizabeth Stanley helped to design the therapeutic functionality of the park. Huzinec, at the grand opening ceremony Aug. 29, noted that their plan entailed essentially giving patients a cozy facility where they could “regain their independence and mobility in the real Western Pennsylvania community terrain.”
“From a rehab perspective, it’s tough inside a hospital to replicate things like gravel and mulch and going up steep inclines,” added Will Cook, president of UPMC Mercy. “These are all the realities that patients face when they leave the Rehabilitation Institute – oftentimes with their life very different from what it was before:  in wheelchairs, walking on canes, with crutches.”