Hear from one of our wonderful clinical volunteers, Zoe
Every year, up and down the country, campers and volunteers gather to give young people and their families a variety of experiences, including residential camps for those with significant health challenges, their siblings and families.
As an ST1 paediatric trainee, I was lucky enough to spend a week volunteering as a teammate for a 4-night experience for 8–17-year-olds from around the country, who are diagnosed with a significant health challenge. Working with the ‘green team’ for campers aged 12-15, alongside 10 other clinical and non-clinical volunteers, we used the power of face paint, camp songs and glitter to create an amazing experience for our young people.
I can honestly say that the week at Over the Wall camp has changed the way I will practice as a doctor and the way I will see our young patients!
A typical day at camp
You may notice I have not mentioned any of the medical conditions that our campers are diagnosed with, and that is for a few very important reasons. Firstly, as team volunteers, that information is not disclosed to us, and camp is an environment where, often for the first time in their lives, our young people are not defined by their diagnosis. Their medical care is managed by the ‘Beach Patrol’, a fully staffed team of nurse, paramedic and doctor volunteers, and any medical information shared outside of the ‘Beach hut’ is on an absolute need-to-know basis.
As a paediatric doctor who works with young people with a variety of complex medical needs on a day-to-day basis, not knowing their diagnosis was the most inspiring part of camp for me, and I loved the opportunity to get to know the young person outside of their conditions. Camp was exhausting, there is no denying that, but seeing the attitude with which the campers embraced and loved every challenge thrown their way during the week was totally inspiring.
I can honestly say that the week at Over the Wall camp has changed the way I will practice as a doctor and the way I will see our young patients. So, the next time I am on a nightshift and struggling to cannulate a complex teenager, or I am on the ward feeling tired and trying to organise a discharge for a child with a variety of health conditions, I have a clear image in my head of why we do what we do. We work hard so these children can be well enough to climb a rock-climbing wall, scream their way down a zip wire or escape from an escape room for the first time, and everyone can play their part in creating that magic. It is safe to say I am counting down the days until I can be back at camp and experiencing that joy first-hand again.