Wednesday, July 4, 2012

His Kids Camp Part 1

By Shelly Burke, RN

I’m having a hard time finding the words to describe my experience at His Kids Camp at Camp Luther last week. I volunteered as the Camp Nurse (I love that title!)  from Wednesday afternoon through Saturday morning.

His Kids Camp is a camp for special needs children and adults. The group that I was there for was made up mostly of teens and young adults with a variety of diagnosis, including Down Syndrome, autism, and so on. Each camper was paired with at least one “buddy,” who assisted that camper as needed with activities, meals, getting dressed, and so on.

I arrived before the campers did so I could get the medication area organized, and I was more than a little nervous about meeting the campers. I hadn’t been to camp for many years (and if I remember right I got so homesick my parents had to come and get me after just a day) and had never worked with special needs kids or adults. Would they take their medications for me? Would I remember their names? Would I be asked to handle difficult behaviors? Would they like me (do we ever stop asking that question)?

These thoughts were swirling around in my mind as the first campers and their parents and caregivers came in. Most of my nervousness went away and I quickly got into “nurse” mode when the parents brought their child’s medications to me. They gave hints for getting their child to take medications and described in detail treatments and other cares needed. When two campers came in with CPAP machines (the machine forces air through a mask into the mouth and nose of people who suffer from sleep apnea) I wasn’t sure if the buddies would know how to use them, but a buddy quickly came and reassured the father that we’d make sure the machines were used correctly.

When a mom handed me her daughter’s g-tube and liquid medications and told me about her g-button (a device used to give nutrition and medications directly into the stomach) I assured her I’d worked with a g-button many times and it would be no problem to take care of her daughter’s.  

Giving medications at supper time was hectic; I hadn’t figured out a routine yet and didn’t know any of the campers. However, they all came up with their buddies, who told me their names, and everyone took their medications without complaint. I began to breathe a little bit easier.

After supper I went to work double checking the medications and figuring out a routine for giving them. I looked up several unfamiliar medications on the computer and got everything in order. The little girl with the g-button came in for her medications, and while she didn’t speak, her smile spoke volumes. When she circled her fist in front of her chest and then pointed at me, I wasn’t sure what she meant. Her buddies were eager to tell me that it meant “I like you!” and I quickly signed the same back to her. After I was done she gave me the tightest hug I think I’d ever received! At that point I knew the rest of camp was going to be great!

The campers joined in the big hall before bedtime and sang several songs. When I heard the director ask everyone to join hands for the Lord’s prayer, I peeked out the window of the med room so I could say it with them. All had joined hands…except for a camper and his buddy across the room from me. They seemed to be talking to each other and I was wondering if the camper was having trouble…and then I realized, with tears in my eyes, that the camper was deaf and he and his buddy were signing The Lord’s Prayer to each other.

(Check back for part two of my account of His Kids Camp. It just gets better!)

(For more information about His Kids Camp, go to

I’m also blogging at Home is Where the Mom Is
Click to read the first articles in the “Teach Your Children Well” series.