I am so excited to tell you about something amazing that happened this summer. Benjamin went to summer camp! How awesome is that! I know you may be thinking – big deal – tonnes of kids go to camp. However, most people might not know that it is darned near impossible for kids with complicated medical issues to go to camp. The camps can’t really take on the risk. It is also a proven fact that it is far more difficult to get their (helicopter) mothers to allow them out of their sight! 🙂
And then came Camp Everest! Camp Everest is a camp created by a nurse practitioner/mother of a child with complicated health issues. It’s mandate is to offer a camp experience to kids who have had spine or brain surgery…so…yup…that’s us. So despite my worries, I unhooked my claws and let Ben go to camp this summer – and he had an amazing time!
Sending kiddos to a medical camp requires a tonne of organization. Parents need to share their children’s diagnosis and med requirements well before the start of camp. Meds are given at certain times of day, so if kiddos need to change their med schedules slightly – they do this well in advance. Meds need to be bubble packed by pharmacies to minimize the possibility of dosing errors. Kiddos who need special feeds (ie: g-tubes) also have to be organized and bolus feed times may need to be changed to accommodate camp schedules. Staff also need to determine the ratio requirements for counsellors to kids. Parents need to fill out all kinds of releases and think about best hospitals for immediate care should an incident arise. There are a bunch of medical people associated with the camp – nurses, doctors, nursing students, OTs, physios, etc. In other words – RELAX – they are in good hands!
A week before camp, a huge hockey bag was dropped off at our house with Camp Everest written on it.
We were told that everything that Ben was going to bring to camp must fit in the bag – even his sleeping bags and pillows! What a smart idea!
On the day of drop off, the first stop was the nurses station. We met with the nurses, dropped of Ben’s meds, and answered any questions they had. We were then escorted to Ben’s room by a young, lovely nursing student. “You’re not gonna be one of those crying moms are ya?”she asked. “No” I sniffled, pulling my sunglasses over my eyes, glancing at her apparently unused uterus area. To be honest, I was a bit of a mess, but more in an excited/touched by awesome kind of way.
The camp itself (Camp Everest just rents it out for the days of camp) was pretty amazing!!! The entire camp facility was entirely accessible by wheelchair. The kids rooms were set up more like dormitories.
We were greeted with a star with Ben’s name on it, a new sweatshirt and a teddy bear. I helped Ben unpack then we headed back to the main area where all the groups were meeting! The theme of the camp was Villain University, so naturally all the kids were in full Villain training. Ben’s group was pirates. I’d love to tell you more, but apparently what happens at camp – stays at camp. So I was out of the loop! Hmmmmmph! I’m not sure what exactly happened, but I think those pirates must have been looting the whole time because Ben certainly came home with a bagful of treasures.
I think having a camp for kids with physical/medical disabilities (although it’s difficult to organize) is so important and here is why:
- These kids can’t go to regular camps – most of these kids need some FUN time outside the hospital where they can meet together with other kids.
- This gives local medical staff a chance to get to know the kids when they are just being kids – a huge benefit to healthcare down the road.
- Most importantly (and sadly) is that one in 3 kids in Canada gets bullied in some way. However kids who have physical or medical challenges have a 2 or 3 times greater chance of being bullied than “typical” kids (from # CutTheBull Campaign). According to www.bullyingcanada.ca, the longer a child is bullied, the more likely they are to develop physical, emotional, and psychological scars that can last a lifetime. Studies also show that most bullying is never reported and can lead to depression, anxiety, poor academic performance, and even suicide.(www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/shc/cutthebull). These kids are very much at risk. By setting up networks, friendships, and teaching opportunities to support these kiddos, we can help them build networks to enhance independence and self-perception through these critical developmental years to help offset some of the negativity and seclusiveness they might encounter. (I’ve already had parents contact me through the blog whose children are only in Grade 1 with concerns about bullying – yikes – we have to help these kiddos!!!).
And that’s why a simple thing like setting up a summer camp for kids with physical or medical disabilities is so amazing!!!
Thank you @neurosurgerykidsfund for an amazing adventure! We hope to see you next year!