Healthcare Workers Make a Difference as Summer Camp Volunteers
Linda Childers | Monster Contributing Writer
While some people might be looking forward to a cruise or family trip this summer, many healthcare professionals plan to use their time off to volunteer their expertise at medically supervised summer camps that serve children and adults with medical conditions ranging from asthma to AIDS.
These camps, typically held over the course of a week or weekend, rely on nurses, respiratory therapists, medical students and other healthcare workers to provide campers with basic medical care, support and guidance. The experience also allows volunteers to network with others in the medical community, master new skills and make a profound difference in campers’ lives.
Medical volunteers, whose duties might include administering meds or helping children maneuver IV lines while they participate in arts and crafts, work diligently to give children the same experiences healthy kids enjoy at summer camp.
“Our camp allows children to forget about their illness for a week and to just be kids,” says Carrie Cady, RN, who volunteers at the Stanley Stamm Summer Camp outside Seattle. “Even if they can’t breathe well, they can blow bubbles or soak their friends with a water pistol.”
Cady says her own chronic health problems help her empathize with her young charges, who range in age from 6 to 14 and have chronic illnesses such as cystic fibrosis and heart disease.
Afflicted with both Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that has attacked her respiratory system, and asthma, Cady often relies on oxygen and a continuous positive airway pressure machine. While her condition has caused her to take a leave of absence from her full-time job as a pediatric nurse at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center for the past year, it hasn’t dampened her enthusiasm or desire to volunteer at the camp, founded by Children’s cardiologist Stanley Stamm, MD.
“The children know I have several chronic illnesses, but they see me blowing bubbles and having fun, and they realize that life can still be good even when you’re sick,” Cady says.
Medical volunteers have a tremendous impact on the lives of campers and their families. Without them, most camps wouldn’t be able to operate.
“Every child deserves the opportunity to have fun and concentrate on being a child rather than a patient,” she says. “We’re also offering their families a much-needed respite.”