The Prouty Garden debate continues in the news today, with the Boston Globe of two minds over the planned demolition of the beloved oasis at Children’s Hospital to make way for a 500,000 square foot state-of-the-art intensive care unit for infants, a pediatric heart center, and additional operating rooms.
A Globe editorial makes the case for pursuing the greater good in this case. Under the headline “Children’s has the right vision for Prouty Garden,” the editors say this:
Children’s has demonstrated its willingness to work with the City of Boston, the Prouty family, and others to create spaces that can serve as a respite for families with sick children. [Children’s chief operating officer Dr. Kevin] Churchwell says the hospital recognizes “green space is part of the healing process.” Next year, a new garden is scheduled to open on the roof of Children’s main building. The expansion plans also call for a smaller outdoor garden (about half the size of Prouty), and indoor spaces that can be visited by patients who are unable to go outside. As hospital officials have pointed out, Prouty often isn’t usable by anyone during cold weather months.
Then again, “Jim McManus, a consultant working with Friends of the Prouty Garden — a group that has mobilized support for keeping Prouty intact — isn’t impressed. Rooftop gardens are typically windswept, unwelcoming, and devoid of wildlife, he says, and indoor green spaces are too hot in summer. Children’s can grow ‘without trashing Prouty,’ McManus says. ‘If you put a building there, it’s irreversible.'”
Just what that means in human terms is illustrated in Thomas Farragher’s Metro column today. Farragher tells the story of David Horton, a 13-year-old New Jersey boy who died of a brain tumor in 1973 after 13 operations at Children’s. His family spent untold hours with David in the Prouty Garden. “It was the only place in the hospital where you could breathe fresh air and get outside,’’ Elizabeth Richter, David’s sister, told Farragher. “And it was the only way we could see David. We’d spend hours there.’’
And when David died, his family decided he should spend eternity there.
[T]hey wrapped him in a blanket, placed him the backseat of a Volkswagen Beetle, and drove through a snowstorm from New Jersey to Boston for an autopsy. “My parents hoped something could be learned for the future treatment of kids with similar condition,’’ Richter said. “They were determined to do that. They wanted his life and death to be a benefit to others.’’
And then they wanted peace for their son. David was cremated, and on a cold February evening, the Horton family assembled for the last time in the garden David loved.
And scattered his ashes in the Prouty Garden.
How can state officials calculate the worth of the land consecrated with the ashes of David Horton? How can Boston Children’s Hospital assess the cost of abandoning its promise — made 60 years ago — that the Prouty Garden would be a refuge for its little patients for as long as the hospital was working to heal them?
How can anyone place a value on something like that? They can’t. It’s immeasurable.
Immeasurable. It’s a good word for the loss that will be absorbed if bulldozers are allowed to plow under David Horton’s final resting place.
The Massachusetts Department of Public health will hold a hearing tomorrow on the expansion proposed by Children’s Hospital. You can bet the Friends of the Prouty Garden – and of David Horton – will be out in full force.