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Pieces of Eight

Sauls with camper
Jacque Sauls, right, a therapeutic recreation specialist with the Department of Pediatrics’ hematology/oncology section, chats with camper Quentin Hines of Plymouth. As director of Rainbow Services for the Brody School of Medicine, Sauls organizes camps for children with sickle-cell disease, cancer, hemophilia and other blood diseases. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Camper jumps into pond with rope swing.
Camper Kelina Hardesty of New Bern, who lost a leg to bone cancer, enjoys jumping from the rope swing into the Camp Rainbow pool. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

ECU-Sponsored Camps Let Kids Be Kids

By Jeannine M. Hutson

ARAPAHOE—For the 77 children who attended Camp Rainbow and Hope in June, it’s a much anticipated week at Camp Don-Lee. They look forward to sailing, swimming and just being kids on the banks of the Neuse River. Their common bond is cancer, hemophilia or sickle cell disease and a longing to have some fun.

One evening around a campfire, a counselor asked campers why they come to camp. “One child said, ‘I come because everybody plays with me and nobody calls me names here,’” said Jacque Sauls, director of Rainbow Services at the Brody School of Medicine. “The children get to play and have fun like any other child at summer camp.”

For 21 years, Camp Rainbow has hosted children aged 5 to 18 diagnosed with cancer, hemophilia and other blood disorders.

Camp Hope is for children with sickle cell disease, an inherited disorder affecting the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen, causing these children to have painful events, tire more easily and be susceptible to infection. That camp started in 1991.

In previous years, the two camps have had separate weeks at Camp Don-Lee, but funding shortages have forced Sauls to combine the two camps into one week.

“We used to have 100 kids for two weeks; this year, it was one week with a total of 77 children,” Sauls said. “It’s a huge cut in what we’ve been able to do. We would love to go back to two camps and more campers. It’s sad when you have to tell chronically ill children they can’t attend camp because you are full.”

Donations cover camp costs for patients of the division of hemology and oncology at the Brody School of Medicine; camp scholarships cost $550 per patient for the week.

Both camps have a pharmacy and nursing station. At least one pediatric oncologist-hemologist is always present, along with a nurse to administer chemotherapy, draw blood samples and provide daily medical care. ECU medical students and residents volunteer as camp counselors.

Each morning, Jennifer Medlin, an ECU nurse specialist in pediatric hematology/oncology, organized campers’ medications in Ziploc sandwich bags for daily dispensing.

“It’s a good time down here,” Medlin said. “We are able to build a fun relationship and that helps you when you’re back in clinic.”

During camp, all sickle cell, hemophilia and cancer patients received their routine medications along with three oncology patients who received chemotherapy. One camper had to leave camp early because she was running a high fever.

Sauls said that incident shows why it’s important to have a physician and nurses at camp. “We have to monitor the children closely because they might not complain since they probably don’t want to go home or miss out on activities,” she said.

In addition, both camps provide support sessions to talk about cancer, sickle cell disease and hemophilia as well as strategies for staying healthy.

This year, campers came from 20 eastern North Carolina counties.

Jordan Evans of Grifton and Jeremy Newsome of Pikeville have been coming to Camp Rainbow for eight and seven years, respectively.

“It’s fun and everybody is the same as you, the same situation,” said Jordan, 17, who was diagnosed with leukemia at 9 and again at 11. “And it’s fun to see the nurses and doctors not in the hospital or clinic. Dr. (Charles) Daeschner is not in his doctor’s coat. It has helped a lot through the years to see them as a person, not just their job.”

Jordan and Jeremy, 18, met while receiving treatments for leukemia, developing an instant bond, they said. Now, the two see themselves becoming counselors instead of campers.

As they talked, children were laughing as they jumped off the high dive into the chlorinated pond that serves as the camp’s pool.

One of the campers, Kelina Hardesty of New Bern, made several jumps off the rope swing into the water. “She is one of the most amazing children I know,” Sauls said of Kelina, a 10-year-old who had her left leg amputated below the knee because of bone cancer two years ago and is a former CMN poster child. “She just jumps in the pool or hops into a canoe. I’ve never heard her complain. She just takes her leg off when she’s in the water.”

While at camp, Medlin and Kelina even had to “operate” on her prosthetic leg to clean out some sand that had worked its way in. After a thorough cleaning, Kelina was back with her fellow campers.

“Seeing their faces and hearing them laughing and having fun makes it all worthwhile,” Sauls said.

The camps are sponsored by the Department of Pediatrics at the Brody School of Medicine and supported by funds from the Children’s Miracle Network, the ECU Medical Foundation and others. To donate toward next year’s camps through Rainbow Services, a non-profit program of the ECU Medical Foundation, contact Sauls at 744-4102.

This page originally appeared in the July 15, 2005 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at http://www.ecu.edu/news/poe/archives.cfm.