Maddison Belcher volunteered at Flying Horse Farms, a camp for children with serious illnesses. She journaled her experiences during the week she spent there.
Sunday, August 2, 2015
Today was move in day at camp for volunteers. The full-time staff is already on site and ready to go. I am very excited to be a returning volunteer and experience residential camp for the first time. We had medical, facilities and psychosocial meetings as a whole staff. This was to gain specific information on GI/ Rheumatology camp and the detailed reports of the campers we would personally be caring for. I will be a cabin counsel for 9 teenage girls, all at the age of 15 years old and all with primary diagnoses of rheumatology disorders. The girl’s problem lists are extensive and I have never cared for these unique rheumatology diseases. I am excited to learn more about their care and everyday life. Something I learned today was specific psychosocial adaptation like pro- action and redirecting. I agree that with kids it is best to follow the steps of pro-action and set expectations and goals to keep the kids behaviors where you want them. Since I did not get to interact with the kids today I created a diagnosis and goal for myself (just for fun)!
Dx: Deficient Knowledge in Rheumatology Care
Goal: I will identify relationships of signs and symptoms of the disease process in my campers and correlate symptoms with causative factors.
Monday, August 3, 2015
Today we had a few last meetings before the kids started arriving. I was able to meet our cabin nurse Jen. She is an ER nurse from Nationwide Children’s who also is in management. We discussed our cabin’s psychosocial needs. I was interested in the fact that one camper had PTSD and I never thought this could be because of hospitalizations. It made me re-think how children feel emotionally when they have intensive medical care throughout their lives. The hospitalizations caused this camper to have PTSD and depression, which led to self-harm. Arrival for camp was quite hectic and long due to campers and families coming in, registering, checking in medications, having a physical/ interview and settling in the cabin. I based my diagnosis on one camper in my cabin who arrived late and had stress in high volume and active settings. She was rushed straight from her check-in into the dining hall where there was music, dancing and conversations. We used a psychosocial adaptation and provided her with noise cancelling headphones to allow her to feel more comfortable, but still be involved when the whole camp was together.
Dx: Moderate Anxiety
Goal: The camper will appear relaxed and report that anxiety is reduced to a manageable level.
Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Our cabin had teen pool time between breakfast and lunch. After lunch the kids were able to go to their club and open activities. I went with some of the girls to spotlight, which was improvisation games and acting. The girls really came out of their shell along with some of the boys from our bigs village. They were very carefree and creative and they all participated the whole hour. Next, I went to arts and crafts with other girls in the cabin. They created a camp T-shirt to wear to our wild rumpus (color Olympics) later in the week. The girls really started to bond, but were starting to feel fatigued from the move-in and activities of camp life. At dinner I noticed the energy level was down camp-wide. Arrival day had taken a toll on staff and campers alike. We spent two days straight in the sun and doing activities. Most kids were complaining of thirst and fatigue.
Dx: Deficient fluid volume due to camp activities
Goal: The campers will demonstrate behaviors or lifestyle changes to prevent development of fluid volume deficit.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Today we did the high ropes course as a cabin. It included four challenges. I am nervous about heights and I agreed to get out of my comfort zone as long as we all did the course as a team. The girls really challenged themselves by making challenges harder, like walking backwards on the tightrope. I was so impressed with these girls pushing their minds and bodies. Tonight the big village went outpost camping together. The kids zip lined across the lake and into camp. We slept in large tepees and had a campfire where we cooked fish the kids caught and made banana boat dessert. A few of the campers came to me with concerns about sleeping on the ground during the afternoon. I was able to advocate for them and we had a meeting with the camp doctor and child life specialist about their concerns. We came to an agreement that we could get two mattresses out there for them to cut down on their pain and soreness so they would not have to miss out on activities the following days due to pain or fatigue. The struggle with outpost as a counselor was the fact that the bigs village was mingling and we could not keep track of campers or their activity easily. Inappropriate conversations had to be redirected and some campers could not stay with the group due to wandering. We had to separate the campers into two groups doing different activities to make the group easier to track and maintain safety with camper to counselor ratios. Overall, this was a fun and new experience for the kids and they enjoyed the sense of adventure.
Goal: Caregiver/Counselor will modify environment as indicated to enhance safety.
Thursday, August 6, 2015
Today was used more as a rest day for the bigs village to refresh after the high ropes/zip line and outpost activities. We had breakfast then just relaxed and slept quietly in the cabins until lunch. After lunch the campers went to their club and open activities. By dinner, the energy had picked up and the kids were excited to find out that the medical team cleared a teen night swim. The girls really enjoyed camping together and we all swam, danced and chatted. Even a camper who is afraid of water joined in after she said she did not even want to put a swimsuit on. The other girls wore life jackets with her in the pool to show their support and cheered her on! One camper throughout the entire day was very quiet and kind of separated herself from our group. At first I thought it was just fatigue, but as the day progressed I noticed some negative and sad thoughts coming from her and a refusal to make eye contact or speak. We tried to intervene and eventually she came out of the mood on her own. She was then willing to share what she was feeling and how she makes herself feel better when I confronted her one-on-one away from the group.
Dx: Social Isolation
Goal: The camper will identify causes and actions to correct isolation.
Friday, August 7, 2015
Today was a lot of individual cabin time to prep for stage night and the final campfire. The girls have decided to sing a song together and play the ukulele. After breakfast the child life specialist offered anyone in camp to come on a memory walk. The camper would decorate two stones while someone read a story. They were to decorate the stones in honor of something or someone they have lost. We would walk to the reflection pond and they would throw one in and keep one. Five of our nine campers went and we stayed quiet clear until they threw in their stones. Then all five of my girls started crying and were very upset. Our child life specialist was talking to another camper so I had to console the girls. I got everyone calmed down and sat them down together. I allowed them 5-10 minutes of peace then asked if anyone would want to speak and share as a group. If everyone did not agree to share then I gave them the option of just waiting silently until the specialist could talk to them individually. The girls agreed to open up. They shared about fear of hospitals, loss of pets, loss of friends due to suicide, lack of support system and fear of being home and lack of safety. I was really out of my comfort zone because I did not know how to facilitate this and keep the conversation neutral. I personally had never had any of those experiences and I had a healthy, safe childhood. I was able to manage for 20 minutes until the child life specialist joined in and was able to close the conversation. Later that night the girls all expressed that that was a great part in their day and they felt better after expressing those feelings. I felt very at ease that it ended up being a positive experience.
Goal: The camper will express sense of control over the present situation and future outcome.
Saturday, August 8, 2015
Today was departure day and the girls’ emotions were running high. All the girls wanted to stay longer. They said they felt safe and supported here and this is where they felt the strongest. We encouraged the girls to exchange information and continue to support each other at home. All were very receptive to this idea. We kept the morning upbeat and did everything together as a cabin through brunch when parents started arriving. Throughout the morning we had a few breakdowns and tears because they were afraid to go home and feel sick or powerless or unsafe. A few girls shared their favorite Bible verses or therapy tricks to help the other girls feel better. By the arrival of the first parents, they had already made plans to text and Face Time each other by the end of August.
I was very impressed with my experiences at camp and how much I got to learn about these kids and how grown up they are in spite of their health issues and home lives. I was touched to know that camp means that much to them and it is a home for them to come to each year. They tried to get me to join in on their tearful goodbyes, but I did not cry. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face because I knew their tears meant I did my job and that for this week they felt protected, empowered and free. I helped them feel at home. That is the feeling I want to leave with every time I come it makes me feel like I can make a difference in someone’s life.
Dx: Spiritual Distress
Goal: The camper will verbalize increased sense of connectedness and hope for the future.