I’ve been avoiding posting on here for a while. Life has been slowly returning to normalcy. It has been a difficult year, but I got through it. It has been 6 months since my emergency open heart surgery (aortic valve replacement redo). Before that, my first elective aortic valve replacement was November 2013. Both times, mechanical valves were implanted. The 2nd time, due to the infection, the ascending aorta was replaced.
For a week at the end of August, I volunteered at a counselor at a summer camp for children (ages 7-17) who suffer from congenital heart disease. It is difficult to express in words the sheer amount of good that Camp Del Corazon does for the world. The children that attend this camp can have the summer camp experience without the restrictions that they face on the mainland. Did I mention that it took place on Catalina Island? These kids, many of whom have had multiple open heart surgeries, some with heart transplants, are often not even allowed to attend other summer camps due to the liability. Camp Del Corazon provides 4 counselors and 1 nurse for every 4-8 campers. There are at least 2 cardiologists on staff as well. The programming that happens at this camp is essentially the same at other camps, but what is truly special about Camp Del Corazon are the camper’s attitudes. Campers here want to have a good time, but to most of them, they want to make sure that every other camper has a good time. The sense of comradery that exists at this camp is something that I have never seen before. This support that they have for each other happens organically. You should hear them cheer for each other, encouraging each other to climb that rock wall, to score that goal in a crazy frizbee golf race game, and when things go sour, when a camper is sad or homesick, it’s the other campers that step up to the plate to comfort them, to cheer them up, to be there for them.
What do these campers have in common with each other? They have all gone through some difficult times due to their CHD (congenital heart disease). Whether they brag about their scars or feel bad about their condition, they all understand that the other campers have probably had a difficult ride so far in their short lives. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. This summer camp gives these kids 1 week out of the year to have access to true understanding, which is often something that their doctors, parents, cannot do simply because they have not experienced it themselves (no disrespect to doctors and especially parents).
Needless to say, I felt at home at this camp, just like the campers. I felt like a CHD hero there. I was brought to tears multiple times every day because of I was able to witness these moments of beautiful acts of kindness or courage. Going to Camp Del Corazon as a counselor was a major part of my mental and emotional rehabilitation. I got so much out of this place. The other counselors, whether or not they have suffered from CHD themselves, will agree with me 100%: CDC is pretty much the happiest place on Earth. The only sad part is that I have to wait another year to go back.
Give to the cause
Camp Del Corazon campers do not pay to go to camp. This non-profit operates from donations from good people like you. If you are reading this, and would like to give some money to this amazing place, please follow this link… and THANK YOU!