Summer Asthma Camp Experience Is Found to Be Personally Rewarding
By Bethanne Tinkler, MEd, RRT
The annual Camp Catch-a-Breath, held at Darton College, Albany, Ga., was a big success this year. The day camp, offered every summer for one week, is geared to children (ages 6 to 12) with asthma. The camp is sponsored by the local American Lung Association, Darton College, Phoebe Putney Medical Center, Palmyra Medical Center and local distributors.
The camp sessions were filled with traditional camping activities like arts and crafts, music, swimming and relay races. But sessions were augmented by the appearances of special guests including firefighters, a storyteller, face painters, the host of a local radio show, members of the Albany Symphony and karate experts. There were some furry stars are the scene too in the form of animals from Chee-Haw Park,
Children were periodically placed in age-specific groups where they learned about their asthma. Educational sessions lasted one hour a day and were taught by Michelle Huskey, RRT, clinical director at Darton College; Jan Mitchell, director of respiratory care at Phoebe Putney Hospital; and Natasha Clayton, RRT, of Palmyra Medical Center.
Sophomore respiratory care students from Darton College served as counselors.
Educational sessions focused on anatomy and physiology of the heart and lungs and what happens to them during an asthma, proper use of medications, signs and symptoms of an asthma attack, how to avoid triggers, use of peak flow meters and how to take control of asthma to stay healthy.
This summer, the camp drew 29 children, twice as many as last year.
As an experienced camp volunteer, I believe similar asthma camps all across the nation provide a wonderful opportunity for children and their parents to learn more about asthma and how to control their asthma symptoms. Just as important, the camps offer respiratory care students an opportunity to have hands-on experience with asthmatic children and get involved with community activities.
The campers learn about their medications, the importance of taking peak flows every morning and night, and the importance of assessing their peak flows accurately to detect airway obstruction early.
Camp volunteers also work hard to teach strengthening, relaxation and breathing techniques to help asthmatics during times of stress.
But the most important thing we hope our children will take with them when they leave camp is a feeling of confidence they are going to be just great and can participate in activities with other youngsters not afflicted with asthma.
I have spent the past four years coordinating and directing the camp and will miss working with the children and students when I move to Georgia State University in Atlanta this fall.
And while my activities with the camp will be curtailed somewhat,
I have promised Nancy Knight, director of the American Lung Association, that I will return in the summer to assist if I am needed.
Bethann Tinkler, former program director of Darton College’s Respiratory Care Program, Albany, Ga., was the coordinator of this year’s asthma camp.