The Online Newsletter for Children's Nurses
e-Edition, Issue 7
PerspectiveBy Garrett Kitt, BSN, RN - Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)
As health care providers at Children’s’ Hospital Central California we are fortunate to have opportunities to serve our community and extended service areas in extremely special ways. For me, those opportunities provide a chance to re-identify perspective within our mission as a Hospital, our intentions while working as a team, and even perhaps our purpose while living amongst each other.
This summer I had the opportunity, as many others in the past 25 years, to participate in Camp Sunshine Dreams as a camp counselor. Camp Sunshine Dreams provides a week long outdoor experience at Huntington Lake for children suffering from cancer. Campers are encouraged to bring a sibling. The camp is a result of tremendous fund-raising efforts and committed staff members.
The week for the staff began with two days of pre-camp training. Looking back, I needed every bit of it. There is a rhythm to working with these children and it takes more than floating to Craycroft a few times to get into it. The campers arrived on Monday morning. The first few showed up in a stretch limousine, a reward for being the first few to appear on time at the pick-up area in front of the Hospital – what a deal, a limo ride to camp through the forest at Huntington Lake! The remainder showed up in a couple of tour buses about a half hour later. As we applauded their arrival and they unloaded, the excitement started immediately.
The age ranges were from 8-15 years and they were every bit of 8-15-years-old. Just as we discussed in the pre-camp training, their ages became apparent more and more as the week went on. I even noticed many things I had not considered with my own children at home – things I probably should have taken note of. (If I had attended the pre-parent training weekend I would have been better off.) Watching these campers in the context we discussed provided great insight. The most significant being that these children are “normal.” They all have similar likes in terms of food, music, activities, sleeping habits, what’s in and what’s out (I am definitely not completely in), pop-culture, and most importantly, a lasting perspective about our Hospital. These impressions of our Hospital received a great deal of attention from me.
As the week progressed I got to know some of the campers, especially the 14-year-olds in my cabin. Each camper I spoke with about Children’s Hospital had an impression formed about particular situations, staff members, physicians, food, good times, and bad times. No matter what the age, the bottom line was that most could recall or anticipate seeing a particular staff member, by name, that made a clinic visit or time as an in-patient better. The young men in my cabin had all the hopes and desires of typical 14-year-olds. They jumped right into the spirit of the camp and enjoyed the time, environment, and activities just as the other age groups did. It was absolutely awesome to participate with these guys as they thoroughly enjoyed themselves playing organized sports, swimming, canoeing, sailing on the lake, doing arts and crafts, and taking some short hikes up to Josh’s Grove and Inspiration Point to look down on the San Joaquin Valley without any hesitation or regard related to the disease that brought us all together.
One of the purposes of this camp, as explained by a long-time staff member, was to show the campers all the love and concern we can. We are here to give them a great time and allow them to have a safe place in which to vent their feelings about what is going on in their lives. Some of the campers and their siblings did not have much to say regarding how cancer has affected their lives. Others however, had a significant amount they wished to unload while at camp. I found that some campers, before Camp Sunshine Dreams, never had the opportunity or took the time to tell anyone about how cancer has affected their life. Just like many of our patients, some have excellent support systems and others do not. This is one of the many reasons why Camp Sunshine Dreams is important.
All the campers were encouraged, but not required, to take any time they wanted to share their concerns, fears, dreams, or whatever thoughts they had concerning their life and the impact of cancer. Some campers and siblings spoke of how cancer came into their lives, some spoke of how they are fighting cancer, some verbalized the impact cancer has had on their family in terms of bringing them together or causing separation, and some chose not to speak at all. Based on this experience, I now have another layer of perspective to apply to better appreciate my role within my family and the team working to care for sick children at Children’s Hospital. Never have I felt more intensely that we have the benefit and the duty of being on the front lines of a battle for advocacy and continued education to improve treatment for the children that come to us for medical attention.
To me, regardless of age, the children attending Camp Sunshine Dreams have a clear understanding of where they were and where they want to be at this point in their lives. It is the courageous tone within, the overwhelming ability of fellowship, and the priority of life that these children and young adults make obvious and that have influenced me as I return to my family and work. On the last night, during the campfire, the campers were allowed to burn up their all the stressors they had verbalized during the week. There are not many ways to accurately describe this part of camp and how young children can deliver a commanding perspective and empower themselves to shed worries, better their emotional foundation, and grow stronger.
Thank you to the contributors, fund-raising efforts, and associated Children’s Hospital staff for making this camp possible.
In This Issue
A Walk On The Family Side
Patient Family Satisfaction
Family-Centered Medical Care
Nursing and Child Life
Pediatric Diabetes Care
Supporting Teens on Dialysis