Growing up, my mother always signed me up for summer camps. At the age of nine I started going to my first summer camp away from home with only two friends that I knew. For me, I’m very social so wasn’t hard to meet new people, it was the perfect outlet for me. Summer camps became a tradition in my life. Every year I went to at least two or three summer camps and as I grew older I became very involved with Young Life. In high school, all year long, we were very expectant for Young Life camp. We planned themes for every day, specific outfits, and costumes we would wear for competitions. It was a big deal for my friends and I. Unfortunately, my accident happened just before my junior year of summer camp. It was hard being stuck in the hospital and knowing my friends were having the best week of their lives. I laid there wishing I was with them. I knew I was missing out. At camp, you form deeper relationship with friends, a deeper relationship with Jesus, create inside jokes, and sweet memories. When everyone was having the week of their life, I was stuck laying in bed all by myself, having breathing treatments, switching out trachs, changing my c-collar, getting a sponge bath, endured hours of painful Physical and Occpational Therapy, and laid in bed staring at the ceiling while every machine, tube, and picc line was connected to my body. I wondered if I’d ever be able to experience summer camp again so when I was discharged from the hospital and adapted to my regular home life, my next goal was an adventure.
It was 2013, a year post injury, and summer came. Camp was right around the corner and obviously I was gonna go no matter what! This was the first big trip we did with all my medical equipment, a nurse, and my parents. We were quite nervous but knew we had to start somewhere. So we made a list and checked it twice… then a third time…. fourth time….. and a fifth time.
We packed anything you could think of, and then doubled it. I needed my medicine, my AFO boots, my pillows for propping my body for pressure relief while sleeping, a baby monitor so my nurse could hear me efficiently, so many clothes, disposable chucks, cath kits on top of cath kits, everything involving a bowel program, wash cloths for sponge baths, an inflatable hair washing bin, and last but not least my power chair and my manual chair.
It was crazy to see how many items we packed and most of it was unnecessary, but we didn’t know what to expect. It was better to be over prepared.
We were ready.
Off we went to Goshen, Virginia. We were packed to the brim in a little blue minivan, pulling a big trailer. It took a minimum of six long hours but eventually we made it to our destination! The following days went pretty well. I was able to learn how to adapt to a new life but that also meant trying adapted zip line, an adapted rope course, and the adapted screamer swing- my favorite adrenaline rush at camp!
(The adapted zip line which landed into water)
(The adapted ropes course)
(this was my freshman year at camp)
(The screamer swing which pulls you up very, very high and you have to pull the release. It’s full of adrenaline, which I love)
The irony of the trip was that no matter how much we packed and checked our list, we forgot one very important thing, my medicine for bladder spasms. A very crucial medicine. Of course! We learned immediately from this failure, but were able to work it out. Thankfully, my doctor called a prescription to the nearest store and the situation was resolved.
Now, with 7 years of experience, we’ve become very good at packing less, but also prepared packing. We have fine-tuned our packing list, have bought specific duffel bags for organization, and we no longer travel with the trailer (unless we bring a second chair).
The point of this article is to show you that an adventure is possible in a wheelchair. Even if it’s your first time. It’s normal to be nervous but make sure that you have everything that you need. Don’t forget your medicine like I did, but if you do, make sure your doctor is aware that you will be going out of town (at least for the first time). You can take on the world! For me, adventures build my confidence, provides hope, and broadens my perspective. I encourage you to go on a adventure, you deserve it! Create memories you will never forget.