By Michael Schultz | Posted: Tuesday March 13, 2018
The 4th Camp Purple, organized by Crohn's Colitis NZ took place at the YMCA Camp Adair outside Auckland in January.
I had not put a lot of thought into my decision and somehow felt it is time for me to volunteer, but when the time drew closer, I started to get a little bit nervous. I had been to kids camps before, the somewhat luxurious Ski Camp on Coronet Peak or the fascinating time at Doubtful Sound but Camp Purple sounded different. I’m no pediatrician - can I deal with kids and their problems? Highly motivated volunteers - will I fit in? Luckily, my IBD specialist nurse Christine Ho from the Southern DHB also signed up for this adventure. I would have had a trusted shoulder to cry on.
But far from needing that shoulder my experience at Camp Purple was vastly different from what I had expected. Okay, I am no fan of bunk beds and somebody always snored. My back didn’t like the thin mattresses but right from day one I enjoyed myself and have already signed up for next year (if they want to have me back, that is). It wasn’t however just enjoyment that fascinated me. To see 60 children and over 40 volunteers, mostly affected by IBD themselves, overcoming their daily worries and brave the challenges of the camp was truly humbling. The camp started with a parent seminar that was well attended. The parents left after the first night and extricating some kids from their mum and dad proved to be a challenge.
But then it really started. We saw many firsts. First time away from home, first overnight stay, first time with other kids affected by the same disease, on a flying fox, the high rope, mudslide and so much more. I have to admit that I myself never went up a climbing wall before but I chickened out at the flying fox. Good on you Andrew and Kirsten and Pam and all the other volunteers. For me it was simply too high.
One of the tasks of the medical volunteers was to ensure that medications were taken on time. We didn’t really have to be there. At the transition clinics in Dunedin with Andrew Day most kids look at their parents when it comes to questions about medications, so we were all impressed by the responsibility and maturity these kids showed. Very few had to be reminded and this was probably a good thing. Maybe they were so at ease and had forgotten all about Crohn’s disease or UC. The question and answer night was another display of maturity and curiosity. The nurses were bombards with questions and engaged in deep rooted discussion until long after bedtime. It gave all of us a good insight into a youngster's mind and what really bugs them. There were discussions about boyfriends, 2nd line medications, supplements, surgery; no topic was taboo.
One of the many highlights of the camp was the visit of the winner of the NZ bachelor Viarni, herself affected by Crohn’s disease. It was great for all of us to hear her inspiring speech and to see that IBD doesn’t have to hold you back. One of the main aims of the camp is to put out the message that nobody has to be alone with this disease and it was interesting to hear Viarni admitting to have only known 5 people with IBD prior to her visit at Camp Purple. She now has about 100 new friends.
Camp Purple was a great experience for all of us, patients, volunteers, nurses and doctors. I am glad I reached out and become part of this adventure. The New Zealand Society of Gastroenterology is proud to support CCNZ. Please remember to sign up for the 5k Great Guts Run/Walk at the next ASM in Dunedin with all proceeds going to help fund the next camp.