A Local Patient Speaks Up for the Prouty

Today we share with you an essay written by Sara Curtis, a 16 year old student at Commonwealth High School in Back Bay and a patient at BCH.  She is a smart, passionate supporter of the Prouty; she spoke at our hearing at City Hall in April, and also wrote this piece outlining her point of view.  Sara is currently participating in a study at BCH with Dr. Nurko and Dr. Kossowosky to examine the effects of a placebo drug on patients with Functional Abdominal Pain Syndrome. 

Sara brings up important issues about the proposed greenspace replacements that we have been assured time and again will be sufficient to replace the Prouty.  Anyone who knows the Prouty Garden knows this is simply not plausible. Architectural mock-ups often look much nicer than the end result, and the promise of "more square footage of green space" in the new construction is akin to divvying up the Public Garden into twenty or so parklets - something that would be such an apparent blunder to any Boston citizen.  We hope BCH really hears voices like Sara's, and not just hears them, but continues to consider them, even at this late hour.  Because in 10, 15 or 20 years, the problem of lacking Longwood real estate will not have resolved, and a new building will be built, somewhere else.  But the Prouty Garden will be gone forever. 

Questioning the Logic of Destroying the Prouty

by Sara Curtis

My experience at the Comfort Ability Clinic was not “fun.” The Clinic was located on the ground floor library close to the Prouty Garden. I started the day in a crowded conference room with nine other children with chronic pain issues and their parents. I remember sitting in the dry, hot room with my father and looking out across a fresh-cut lawn, spotted with trees that had, in the peak of autumn, flamboyantly displayed their vibrant colors, and wondering how such a place could exist in the middle of a hospital that needs all the space it could get. Flash forward to April 28th, when Charles Weinstein, director of real estate for the Children’s Hospital Boston, stood in front of the Landmark Commissioned and argued “in order to save the lives of more children” the Prouty Garden would have to be destroyed. Then I learned that such a place could not exist peacefully, and without conflict, in a constantly developing world. I have no rebuttal to Weinstein. He is correct- the new unit that will be built on the current Prouty Garden will only serve to save more lives- the goal of every hospital. Now that the petition put forward to save the Prouty Garden was denied, this construction will most likely commence.

However, I would like to bring another impending issue to rise: the absolute necessity of these children and their parents, confined to a world of medicine, machines, and harsh reality, to have the contrast of peace, nature, and serenity that the garden offers. Now, the hospital has argued for some time that there is alternate green space available throughout the grounds, and I would like to, through images and descriptions of these places, prove that these areas are not viable as replacements for the necessities the Prouty Garden offers. The first area we will look at is the outdoor playground located outside the specimen-sampling wing. This playground, though equipped with the typical necessities for a child to have a good time (a slide, things to climb etc…), the atmosphere created by the surrounding rattle of exhaust vents, total lack of greenery, and the harsh asphalt ground, by no means replaces what will be lost with the demolition of the Prouty Garden.

The other “park” of notable size is located on Jimmy Fund Park, outside a freight loading dock. I cannot even begin to explain how outraged I was when I visited Mandell Park, however I will attempt to paint an image with my words. The noise was deafening. Trucks and cars rumbled past, their vocalizations made tenfold louder by the high concrete building-sides of the surrounding area. The Garden itself is a patch of concrete, where upon my arrival, three loitering adults promptly snuffed out their cigarettes. In front of the Park sits a 16 nozzle industrial fire hydrant, marring the already depressing attempt to bring greenery to the area. There was not a child in sight. There were no attractions for the children either, nothing noteworthy at all was visible in the garden. I believe my thoughts at the time were “the only likely thing to happen here is a child getting hit by a car.”

Now that the Prouty Garden is being demolished, there is no alternative place for meditation and connection with nature to be plausible. If these parks described above are what the hospital considers acceptable as replacements for the Prouty garden, then I pity and child or family who visits the hospital in the future. Being only sixteen years old, I have yet to learn much of the professional issues the hospital faces, yet I can speak on the side of humanity, and on the side of the patients the hospital affected (many of whom are too sick to speak up themselves). I ask the public, shouldn’t the role of a “public” hospital be to benefit said public in every way possible? If we accept Weinstein’s logic, that for the public good this new wing must be built, then we also must apply this argument to the necessity of a new garden of equal value to the Prouty, an issue that has not yet been addressed by the hospital. The visions of acceptable greenspace the Hospital has put forward since the Prouty do not reassure that this will be achieved.