keystone camp

I’ve written before about how unwelcoming my place of work is for individuals with disabilities.  And thankfully, I am leaving.  Trying to be hopeful that the new place will be better.  In the meantime, I am trying to process the thoughts and feelings that leaving is accelerating, exacerbating, and otherwise magnifying.  On top of this all, this week, there was an incident that put an exclamation point on their incompetence while also triggering some of my long felt issues about the competency of people to deal with someone who is sick.

Where I work is a lot like a summer camp, so I’ll use those terms to describe what happened.  A camper became quite ill.  She reported that she didn’t feel good to the camp counselor – I happened to overhear it.  I looked over to see the camp counselor on her radio to someone, with the camper leaning against a wall and looking awful.  The camp counselor kept asking the camper if what she was experiencing was “normal” for her, to which the camper replied “no”.  This went on for a while, although it felt like forever I suspect really it was no more than a minute.  Finally, I came over and offered to help.  “Do you need me to sit with her while you go for help?” I asked.  To which the camp counselor replied, testily, that she didn’t and that SHE knew the camper’s medical history so she had to stay with her.

Um.  Ok.  “How about we find a place to sit down?”  I suggested.

Now please keep in mind, I had no idea what was up with this camper.  But I saw her color, and I saw that she looked shiny, which says to me sweaty, which in conjunction with her color says “I’m gonna pass out”.  And having been that kid, oh so damned many times, I was just not going to leave her on her feet while she was clearly about to become abruptly unable to stay upright.

Over to some benches.  Is there a private place where we can go?  the camp counselor asked.  There were lots of people, other campers and counselors and staff, milling around.  I don’t know.  I tried some doors, all locked.  No park rangers around, so again I recommended the camp counselor go…this time to ask for a key, again I was rebuffed.  Off I went.  Back I came, keyless because no one had a key (are you effing kidding me?) to find an empty couch, no camper, no counselor.  The counselor’s back pack was sitting there though.  Shit.  I ask one of the other campers.  “EMS escorted her away”.  Away to where?  No one knew.  I figured as long as she was now in the more capable hands of EMS that it would be ok and that I should just go back to the job I was over in that part of the camp to do.  A short time later, I saw a woman storming down the trail behind me.  I went over and asked “are you here for the sick camper?”  She said yes, asked where the camper was, said that the camper’s mother was in her car outside and they needed to find the camper.  I went to a group of camp counselors and asked “Who knows where the camp counselor took the sick camper?”  And it was like a herd of deer in headlights.  “She was just outside, you passed her when you came in.”  I got babbling answers.  “That’s group 5” someone offered unhelpfully.  “Can someone text her and ask her where she is…please….now?”

Later, one of the other staff members asked me what had been going on.  I described a little of the situation, to which she replied “Oh, probably dehydrated”.  I thought “WTF?!”  And I said “I’m not sure that was it.”

And you know what?  It turned out that wasn’t it.  What it was was a hell of a lot worse because this camper has a life threatening endocrine condition.  And we bumbled around like effing idiots leaving this camper standing while questions were shot at her as if she were suspected of shop lifting or something.

Before I knew, but did suspect, how bad the situation actually was, I wrote to the head counselor to offer the suggestion that the counselors be given some clear protocols and training in first aid – minimally to not leave a sick camper standing while they messed about and figured out what to do.  I didn’t say “messed about” and I was a lot nicer about it than the tone in this post.  You catch more flies with honey, as the saying goes.  But I am bothered.  Since it happened, I have found myself having periods of anger, some self recrimination that I didn’t just say “get out of my way dumbass, I’m in charge here” and take over, and a resolution that in the future I will not hesitate if the person who is “handling” it looks like an incompetent.

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