Recently and jokingly I made the comment on an Autism-Mom post that my next post would very likely be titled “Bummer Summer” – I was serious about the fact that it has really been a bummer summer, with one thing after another, but really not serious about the post. I really should know by now, never to joke…….
I have mentioned once or twice before that DC attends a summer camp for special needs children and adults. He has attended since he was 5 years old. He loves it there.
Before he left the school system at age 21, he was able to attend every day for 7 weeks each summer. Now that he has a “job” year-round, he normally uses some of his allotted vacation time to attend for two weeks of the season. He does and has always been able to attend the twice weekly after camp program.
Because we took an extra vacation this year, he was not able to take an extra two weeks off to attend camp as he usually does, so I opted for him to go one day a week on Friday in addition to the two “after camp” sessions that do not interfere with his work schedule or his time off. “
DC really enjoys the after-camp program. There are only 10 to 12 campers that attend the program by invitation only – first they have to be old enough and secondly have to be able to tolerate not only being at camp all day from 9 to 3 but staying on after camp until 8pm. That is a long day for many campers. Because it is such a small group, they do try to rotate the invitees for each session. When DC was finally old enough to be invited to stay, I’m guessing at 12 or 13, he was thrilled. At the time, DC enjoyed doing many things but he would always opt to stay home if given the choice. He would never ask to go anywhere. After he attended that first time, he actually asked me when he could go back. That was HUGE!
I am not one to ever ask for favors or special treatment, but he was asking me to go back! I called the director and asked if there was any way that DC could attend once a week, every week. I didn’t want to take anyone’s spot but… this was HUGE! The director at the time, understood (DC had attended camp long enough for her to also know that this was HUGE) and agreed. He attended once a week until he left school and started his job. Now that he is working and not able to attend camp daily, he has been attending the after-camp program twice a week, all summer, every summer.
The after-camp program comes to an end a week before the daily camping season ends. Thursday night was his last after-camp program for this summer. Last week was Christmas week at camp, this week was New Years Eve. He was excited.
At about 5:30 my phone rang. I saw the camp number on the caller ID. My heart stopped. I just knew. DC was having a seizure. *Tam the program director had already called 911. I could tell he was shaken (he really likes DC and the feeling is mutual) but he kept his cool as I was panicking. Camp is a good 1/2 hour away without traffic and he didn’t know what hospital they would be transporting him to because the ambulance had not arrived yet. Doug, who only lives 2 minutes away came and we headed in the direction of camp and the two hospitals closest to camp. Tam called back when the ambulance arrived to let me know which hospital they would be bringing him to.
As luck (seriously someone is watching out for this boy) would have it, a former camp employee, *Kim happened to be there visiting. Kim was DC’s group leader for many years at camp – many, many years. He knows him well. He even worked as an IA (“Para Professional” to some of you) at DC’s transition program at the college. Kim, now a LPN knew exactly what to do. I’m sure Tam would have been able to handle it, we had discussed it after DC’s first seizure, but it is always easier to have that extra pair of hands.
Kim rode in the ambulance with DC. I was in constant contact with Tam, relaying information back and forth. We somehow arrived at the hospital before the ambulance. Kim stayed with us the entire time.
The actual seizure lasted about 3 minutes, but he seemed to come out of it much more quickly this time. He was back to his old self long before we left the hospital.
I know that there are plenty of people who deal with this kind of thing or worse every day, but all of this is very new to me, so yes, I am freaking out, so please bear with me if I bring it up every once in a while. DC has been so healthy all of his life. He’s never been on any kind of medication other than the occasional antibiotics. Now at 24 he has had two seizures in a 7 week period of time. I am having trouble wrapping my head around all of this, while still trying not to make him nervous about it.
Like the last time, DC does not seem to remember the seizure. He thinks he was in the ‘Hos- a- bul’ because he ‘fell down’. After we were discharged, we drove Kim back to his car at camp. Tam and the after-camp staff were still there waiting in the parking lot. Tam had saved some of the New Years pizza DC didn’t get to have for him. This certainly helped to take away some of the sting of missing his last after-camp day.
I am grateful for all of these people. I can’t say enough about the care and compassion they showed DC. If this had to happen again, I am thankful that it happened while he was with staff and volunteers that knew just what to do, didn’t scare him and above all, made him feel comfortable. I can’t say enough about all of them. Tam even thought to send one of DC’s favorite Disney books with him so he had something to read at the hospital.
What does it say about this camp that even former employees love the place so much that they come back to visit ‘their campers’ as often as they can? Once one becomes involved in camp, one is always involved with camp. This place never leaves them. The camp and the campers stay in their hearts forever. This is not just me gushing, this is a fact. Many of the staff started as volunteers when they were 12 or 13 years old, stayed on through high school and through college. Many have become Special Education teachers directly due to their time spent at camp and many continue to work there during the summer. That says a lot about the camp, the campers and the people that love it enough to come back every year for 10, 15, 20 30+ years. Imagine 12 – 15 year old kids, not just a few but 15 or 20 who volunteer to spend their entire summer, every summer working at camp. I am always just blown away by that.
During the course of the evening while listening to all of our conversations, DC realized that he would not be able to attend camp the following day. Our day would be filled with – resting, filling his prescription, calling and possibly seeing the doctor, finding a neurologist and with any luck, getting an appointment.
He was not happy that he would not be going to camp on Friday, not happy at all! He was so angry that on the way home he stated point blank and angrily “Never falling down again!”
If wishes were horses……