In 2014, then-sixteen-year-old Mathew Carulli of Perth, Australia, lost an eight-year battle with leukemia. The loss of someone so young is undoubtedly tragic, but his legacy will live on in the form of a special bridge that will allow hospitalized children to have easier access to fresh air and nature.
The Rainbow Bridge
The brightly-lit and decorated pedestrian bridge will connect the outdoor area of Perth Children’s Hospital with Kings Park. It will allow patients, their families, and hospital staff members to safely cross the busy road that separates the hospital from the park, giving sick children the opportunity to get fresh air and immerse themselves in nature .
Mathew helped come up with the idea for the bridge, and his parents are now on the board of the PCH Foundation, who have been lobbying for its construction since 2012. The project is finally going to come to fruition, thanks to a 6.3 million dollar funding commitment from the PCH Foundation.
PCH Foundation chairperson, Ian Campbell, offered a tearful “thank-you” to the state government for supporting the bridge, to everyone who donated, and a special word of gratitude to Mathew’s parents, Steve and Shelly Carulli.
“Since Matthew’s passing after a long fight with severe illness, his parents have continued to push for the concept he helped come up with,” he said. “So Steve and Shelly, I’m glad we’re here today. For Matthew.” 
The Benefits of Getting Outside
Getting outside and breathing in fresh air has countless benefits no matter who you are, but this holds especially true for sick patients in hospitals. Having spaces where patients can interact with natural elements like trees and flowers has been shown to improve their mental health. Many physicians have also noticed an improvement in the health of child patients after spending time outdoors .
So what is the reason behind these benefits? One answer is that it provides patients with vitamin D. There are studies that suggest that vitamin D may have a protective effect against a variety of health issues from osteoporosis to heart attacks and strokes. For people who are already dealing with severe health issues, vitamin D could be very beneficial- at the very least in improving their mood .
There is some evidence that getting outdoors may actually help certain patients heal faster. In a 2005 report from the University of Pittsburgh, researchers found that patients with spinal cord injuries experienced less pain and stress and took less pain medications when they were exposed to natural light .
Linda Ferro-Chartrand, a registered nurse working at a hospital in Ontario, Canada, has seen the benefits of fresh air in her own patients.
“Getting patients outside for a while can help them feel like they’re not in a hospital any more. It gives them the break they need,” she said .
This is an often-overlooked piece of the puzzle at many medical institutions. Being outside in nature has been shown to have a direct positive impact on mental health and wellbeing, which is crucial for patients, especially children, who are going through a very challenging time in their lives. Having the opportunity to “escape” for even just a little while can greatly improve their quality of life during their hospitalization .
Having access to outdoor space is also beneficial for the hospital staff. When the hospital workers have a natural place they can go to that is quiet and relaxing, it allows them to recharge and can prevent burnout. This improves morale across the entire hospital and therefore has a positive impact on patient experience .
Completion Set For 2021
The construction of the bridge is on track to be completed by the middle of next year, and the hospital staff and public officials couldn’t be more excited about it.
Health Minister Roger Cook, who recently witnessed a boy in a wheelchair attempting to push himself around the parking lot and across the road, is eagerly anticipating its completion.
“Imagine the opportunity for that boy to go on his wheelchair across this beautifully coloured and designed bridge, into the trees and the park-scape just opposite, to be able to just get out of the hospital for a change, be able to really sort of breathe in the fresh air that Kings Park provides and really get that sense of wellbeing, that’s what we’re trying to capture here, that’s what we’re trying to do.” 
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