There is nothing scarier than having a critically-ill child. At Children's National Medical Center, the average hospital stay is six days. For some kids, it is even longer. Now, the hospital is raising money to create a tranquil space that might give those patients some freedom and some peace.
Arabelle Blalack was just five and a half years old when doctors diagnosed her with leukemia. The illness is gone now, but her memory of being stuck in the hospital still lingers.
"I couldn't really move around anywhere," said the now-10-year-old. "I had to stay still, like glued to my chair."
These days, Arabelle is certainly enjoying the freedom to be outside.
I love feeling the breeze and looking at all the things in nature," she said.
That is why Children's National Medical Center wants to turn its roof in a healing garden.
"We are very excited," said Kathleen Gorman, chief operating officer for the hospital. "This is really a dream come true."
Gorman said about a year ago, a little girl who was dying told the hospital her final wish was to go outside.
"Everybody came together to try to find a space outside that was suitable for her to have her last wish," said Gorman.
The little girl came to a small patio right off of busy Michigan Avenue. She died the next day. She helped the staff understand what a garden like this needs to be.
"For children who are on ventilator support or on oxygen, we will need to have the appropriate outlets and the emergency backup generators," said Gorman.
All 7,200 square feet of the roof of the medical center will become garden space.
"There is a lot of scientific evidence behind the healing of being outside, being in the fresh air -- not only in healing, but also in reducing pain for our children," Gorman told us.
The garden will be dedicated to the first ladies who regularly visited the hospital over the years. They have already raised $1.7 million, but need about $5.5 million to design, build and maintain the garden.
They will get some help from Arabelle as she will want to plant some flowers. And she will see the new garden, not as a patient, but as a visitor.
If you would like to learn more about the Healing Garden or make a donation to help build it, click here for more.