I was first diagnosed with asthma when I was 8 years old. Naturally one would think I made my career choice to become a Respiratory Therapist based on my asthma history. Which is partly true, however it was mostly fueled by a summer camp I attended for a few summers as a child.
How asthma camp changed my life
The American Lung Association sponsored and put on a summer asthma camp up in the local mountains just about an hour away from where I grew up. I remember when my parents told me they had signed me up for the week long sleep away camp when I was 10. I was very apprehensive but also pretty excited. I had never attended any summer camps nor slept away from home besides the occasional sleep over with family or close friends.
That week in the summer of 1993 changed my life. I had an absolute blast and didn’t feel alone with my asthma. I was surrounded by 150 other kids just like me. Asthma camp was just like any other summer camp filled with archery, swimming, boating, hiking and crafts to name a few. The highlight of camp was always ‘skit night’ which was the last night at camp where each cabin would put together a skit and perform it for the entire camp. I still to this day remember every skit I was in as well as a song about asthma I wrote to the tune of ‘my favorite things’. In addition to all of the typical summer camp activities, there were fun activities that taught us about our asthma. How to take control and learn our triggers, what our asthma medications are and what they did, and when to take them. Along with the regular camp staff there was a medical staff that consisted of doctors, Respiratory Therapists and nurses, there 24/7 the entire week. My little 10 year old self felt incredibly empowered after that week and my mind was made up. I was going to become a Respiratory Therapist when I grew up and come back to camp as a medical staff team member. I attended asthma camp for 3 more years and was so sad when I was 13 and too old to come back.
Returning to camp as a Respiratory Therapist
Fast forward 12 years and I kept my promise. I remember getting the phone call that my volunteer medical staff application had been accepted and I was going back to asthma camp. There were tears, so many tears of joy. Camp was just as I remembered it and I had just as much fun as the kids. My passion for asthma education was ignited and couldn’t be extinguished. I learned so much from the kids and I looked forward to the week of camp every summer more than Christmas. I made life long friendships over the next 10 years while I was on the medial staff. The medical director of the camp who was the same medical director from when I was a camper myself became my asthma doctor and also great friend. It was at asthma camp where I met one of my very best friends, Lorene (who is also a contributor for this site!) and we have remained extremely close all of these years.
The asthma camp I was involved with unfortunately ended after the summer of 2015. As sad as I was for camp to be ending, I have been actively searching for other summer Asthma camps and to my surprise, there are!
If you have a child with asthma and think they would enjoy attending an asthma camp I would definitely encourage doing a quick internet search to see if there are any camps near to where you live. Asthma camp made such a profound impact on my life that I am confident it will do the same for others!!