Thursday, July 28, 2016

Juvenile Arthritis Camp

After speaking about Relationships & Intimacy at the Arthritis Foundation's Juvenile Arthritis Conference West, I left Arizona at 4:30am the following morning. I flew back to Denver and drove straight to Estes Park, where I spent an amazing week as a counselor at Juvenile Arthritis Camp. 

I had the opportunity to volunteer at JA Camp once before, back in 2011, but hadn't been able to return again until this year due to having my own kids to handle! (In 2012 I had a seven week old baby, in 2013 I had a one year old, in 2014 I was about 9 months pregnant with my second baby - and my RA was flaring badly to boot, and in 2015 I had two crazy toddlers!) This year, since my boys were in camp themselves most of the week, I was finally able to return - and I'm really glad I did!

As always, camp was crazy and full of activities! We rode the aerial tram to the top of the mountain, where we climbed on rocks and chased chipmunks. We did arts and crafts. We went horseback riding. We went swimming every day. We went boating. Archery. Rock climbing. Night hiking. Games. Songs. On town night the kids got to ride bumper boats and go karts. The junior counselors got to go zip lining. Even though these kids are living with arthritis, they never cease to amaze me with their energy and enthusiasm! 

We also had a "talk with the doc" session, where the campers got to talk to a pediatric rheumatologist and nurse (both of whom were also amazing counselors all week!), adults living with arthritis (me and a few other counselors), and each other about life with arthritis. We had an amazing "celebrities" session too, where junior counselors shared their perspective on school, sports, injuries, bullying, depression, fundraising, and advocacy - they were all so well spoken!

This year I roomed with the camp nurse, which meant that our room was also the infirmary. We had a peg board in our room with 56 gallon sized Ziploc bags hanging on it - and each bag contained multiple bottles and packets of pills and vitamins. Our fridge was full of syringes. It was a visual reminder of the challenges our campers face every day. And maybe it's because my kids are so much younger and still need a lot of hands on care, but I was also really surprised to see how self-sufficient most of these kids were when it came to being responsible for their own medication. With a reminder that it was time for meds, most of them were able to find their own bag and knew how much medication to take and when. Some gave even gave their own injections. And, when med time was over, they all just went back to being crazy kids!

I really enjoyed my time at camp this year and hope I will be able to return again next year!! 

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