Meet Karen Tomlin – OTW Camper parent and fundraiser
Karen’s son Samuel (above) was born with a heart defect and required immediate surgery at birth. After the operation, doctors explained that Samuel would need further surgery later in life. It was in 2017, just before a major operation, that Samuel, then aged 9, began having seizures that were entirely unrelated to his heart condition.
“That year was incredibly difficult”, explains Samuel’s mum Karen. “Samuel was diagnosed with epilepsy and so we felt very angry that he had even more to deal with.”
In the run up to surgery, Samuel became increasingly tired. A day of school would deplete all of his energy, leaving him completely exhausted. “School was so tiring for Samuel. His heart condition meant that he struggled to keep up, therefore a day of school was as much as he could manage. After that, he didn’t really leave the house. All he did was go to school and then sleep. At weekends – he caught up on sleep and we all stayed in. He was forced to give up all of his activities and clubs. What made it worse, was that the more tired Samuel got, the more seizures he would have, so he was caught in a cycle of exhaustion and seizures.”
Samuel’s health had also caused him to feel vulnerable and lose his confidence, as he began to avoid going out due to his fear of having a seizure.
“I remember Samuel asking questions like- ‘what happens if I have a seizure whilst walking down the stairs?’ and once he refused to go out on bonfire night. When I asked why- he told me that he was worried he’d have a seizure and when he came around, he’d be lost.” Unfortunately, worry was another contributing factor to the regularity of Samuel’s seizures.
“Samuel really needed help finding his confidence.” adds Karen.
Karen had seen posts from the Children’s Heart Surgery Foundation about Over The Wall camps and decided to apply for the Midlands Health Challenge Camp. Since then Samuel has been to camp twice.
“Samuel really found something at camp. I think it normalised illness for him. He talked a lot about one friend he made, that he shared a room with. They had compared scars- he said it was ‘really good to see someone with scars just like me’. He also had so much fun with all the activities- in fact he still talks about the pranks and challenging the other team. He has so many fond memories.”
“When he comes back from camp, he is more self-assured, confident, outgoing, and settled.
He’s always been a sociable person- but camp has been a really big boost for him – it helps him to understand that his health doesn’t rule him – he rules his health.”
“Camp activities are wonderful– but there is a lot more going on than simple fun and games– the ‘therapeutic recreation’ that Over The Wall often talks about is definitely happening.”
Giving back to OTW…
After camp, Karen was keen to raise funds for Over The Wall and had remembered that her employer, Coloplast annually choses a charity of the year. Staff were asked to nominate a cause close to their heart, that may reflect the ethos of the company- (which is to make life easier for people with deeply personal and private medical conditions). After a staff vote, OTW was chosen.
“I was delighted that Over The Wall was chosen as charity of the year. Now, we will be contributing to the charity through a whole range of fundraising activities including a dress down Friday, special events, an inter-department sports day, a family fun day with raffle and many other different activities and events including sponsored runs.”
“Staff will also get involved in volunteering for Over The Wall, and plan to come to camp and set up in 2020. I feel very pleased to give back to a charity that has both helped and affected me personally.”