The Amana Healthcare and Rehabilitation Hospital, in the desert town of Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, has 65 residents ranging in age from five months to 101 years, is unique venture uses design and landscape architecture to bring the best possible quality of life to children born with serious physical disabilities and adult trauma victims. They are cared for round-the-clock by 212 staff, including physio and occupational therapists, doctors, nurses and support staff.
The building and its grounds have also been designed to aid rehabilitation and give those in residence the best possible cognitive stimulus. The building itself has been created so that a loop corridor allows quick access to any room in the event of an emergency, while the grounds have shaded areas and a hydro-therapy pool – many of those undergoing treatment have far greater freedom of movement in water than on dry land. Extended families can be accommodated in purpose built rooms or – in less hot weather – under the trees and canopies of the garden.
Director of clinical operations, Sally Sodergren, explains: “We assess the extent of the responsivity of all the residents here. For some it is minimal, but for others that is not the case but they respond in different way – to sound, colour or movement. “So we try to use the walls of the building as a canvas to stimulate the imagination – especially of the children.”
The facility includes a Sensory Room which has light installations and a heated mattress for massage, along with musical equipment and artwork. Relatives of residents are also an important factor in maintaining stimulus. “We bring entire families in,” said Sodergren. “We organise activities such as singing, but for some children it is enough to look at the changing colours in fluorescent water filled tubes and to hold the glowing filaments.” Adult patients can be people previously involved in serious road traffic accidents, other physical traumas or those who have undergone strokes or serious diseases. The children mainly have the debilitating condition known as Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) which results in deterioration of the nerve cells (motor neurones) connecting the brain and spinal cord to the body’s muscles.
As the link between the nerves and muscles breaks down, the muscles used for activities such as moving become progressively weaker and shrink. But mental abilities are unaffected, which is why stimulus is so important. Occupational therapist Ruairi Obroin works with physiotherapist James Duffy to give the best possible quality of life to those in their care. “We try and maintain an holistic approach and involve as many of the senses as possible,” said Oboin.
“The children each have their rooms which the family decorate,” says Sodergren. “They have pictures, photographs and things from home. “But the walls of the pediatric unit are illustrated with fantasy pictures around an ‘enchanted wood’ theme – first suggested by the works of UK author Enid Blyton. Throughout the interior prayers from the Koran in elaborate and beautifully drawn Islamic script are in gold on the walls – 50 in all. Amana means trust or safe-keeping in Arabic and its residents are either referred from the government, taken from shorter-term care in hospitals -or in some cases a family member just walks through the door asking for help. All fees are covered by UAE health insurance, so no money needs to be supplied by the families. Residents are currently all Emirati nationals – but staff hail from 44 different countries.
“It is aimed at helping people who have not got vast sums of money to spend,” says Sodergren. “A similar scheme is underway in Abu Dhabi and I would like to see more such projects.”