I spent many years running the waterfront at a summer camp in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Camp is camp. Kids are active. Kids are busy. Things happen. For such as those times we always had a camp nurse on staff. Nurses would usually come for a week or two at a time. Most often they would be there while their kids were in the camp program.
One year we had a new nurse show up. She was very nice. Ready to take on the task of manning the camp meds and fixing the boo-boos that would arise….or so we thought. This is the story of how we broke the camp nurse.
The day started out as normal as any other day. I was at the beach with my staff and Tim, the maintenance guy was there to put gas in the motorboat. Tim is a big guy. In his early 20’s. Nice guy. He was doing his job of filling the boat gas tank like any other day. He was climbing into the boat which was side docked, and his foot slipped. slippage if fine…however, his foot happen to get caught on the cleat of the boat. If you are not sure what a cleat is here is a picture
Needless to say, poor Tim cut the bottom of his foot. It was not a straight cut. More of a jagged rip. I knew right away he would need stitches. We followed protocol and I radioed for the nurse to come down with a transport. He would need to be taken for stitches. The nurse came down with some band-aids. I guess she did not understand the depth of the injury. She seemed a little squeamish. So I do what I do. I reached into my first aid bag and pulled out a sanitary napkin. Slapped that thing on the bottom of his foot, wrapped him up and called for his supervisor to take him to the local ER for stitches. Off he goes and we all go back to work.
Lunchtime comes. We are all starving and make our way to the mess hall. I believe Tim is back from the ER at this point and complaining to all who will listen that I put a sanitary pad on the bottom of his foot! However, the hospital staff was rather impressed. We eat and move on with our day….or so we thought.
We have a mountain bike program at our camp. Jeff heads this class up. Jeff is a great guy and was riding his bike down to his program to meet his campers for his next ride. Jeff was riding his bike down the hill slowly as there were campers walking down as well when the girl in front of him sidestepped rather quickly causing Jeff to knock her off balance. It was one of the crazy accidents where it just happened! This poor girl fell over and somehow hit her head just right with just the right amount of force it caused her to have a seizure. I was nearby and I hear all sorts of chatter on the radio about an accident outside my cabin. I run out to see my good friend Bob trying to support this girls head as she is having a full-fledged seizure. I jump into action and help Bob with supporting her head so that every time she convulsed she did not bang it on the tar causing more damage. It is clear when I put my hands under her head that she has some sort of laceration as there was a great deal of blood. A nearby staff member called for the nurse and put the camp on alert for a high-level emergency. The nurse came down. Again…she carried bandaids. She stood there shell-shocked as Bob and I took control of the situation and called an ambulance. We are at the top of a mountain so it takes a bit for them to show up. We have stabilized the camper and she is alert at this point. She still needed stitches and needed to get a good examination as to figure out what caused the seizure. So off she goes and camp resumes normal activity. At this point, Bob and I have made a joke about the nurse being a school nurse where she hands out tums and band-aids. We joke about what a day it has been. We have never had this many accidents at camp in one day before. Well little did we know the day was not over for us!
Bob was driving the boat for free time tubing that afternoon. We have a system where if there is an accident in the boat the boat driver was to come in honking the boat horn to alert the staff they needed assistance. I notice Bob was bringing in the boat at a slow speed but he was honking the horn. I thought he was joking until he was close enough I could see his face. He was not joking. He pulled the boat in and I notice Meg, his boat spotter and fellow lifeguard sitting with a young male camper supporting him. I looked at Bob and he said the young man had injured his elbow. The kid looked ok. Cradles his arm. But was not panicking or crying. Bob got closer to my ear and said he felt the kid’s elbow move around when he helped the kid get in the boat. Yikes! We call the nurse…AGAIN! Again she comes down with band-aids! Band-aides!!!! At this point, I am about to lose my mind! We need to get this kid’s arm stabilized and get him from the boat to the dock and then into a car to go to the ER. Bob and I are able to fashion the sam splint over his life jacket to support his arm. With the help of our beach staff, we are able to get this kid out of the boat and down the dock and into Bob’s car with as little amount of jarring as possible. We make it to Bob’s car and they are off. I see the nurses face at this point and she is done. DONE!!! Camp was not her bag!
Thankfully the rest of the day and week went by without cause. No more accidents but loads of paperwork to fill out. Accident reports and documentation.
Now…to put your mind at ease….we really did run a safe camp. Never had we had a day like this before nor had we had a day like it after. We would go all summer with the usual camp injuries, sprained ankle, bee stings, a broken finger, ear infections. Normal stuff. This just happened to be a CRAZY day in the camp world. One that tested our skills. The staff member recovered from his laceration on his foot. He has a good story to tell about how a girl put a pad on his foot! The first camper who hit her head was just fine. The doctor said she hit is just right that it caused the seizure. She made a full recovery and I still will see her on facebook from time to time. She is doing well. The second camper, our third injury of the day, had to have surgery to put in rods and pins as he did break his elbow fairly bad. The tube flipped and in his panic instead of letting go, he grabbed the handle which caused the break. He too went on to make a full recovery. The nurse….well we broke her. This was her only week working at camp. She went back to being a doctors office nurse which was more in her wheelhouse. We appreciated her there for the week she gave us but she knew it was more than she wanted to take on. Camp is not for the weak!
On a side note thank you to all the nurses, doctors and medical team that worked that summer to treat our staff and campers. To those who are in the medical field now, I thank you! Your hours are long and you give time away from family to treat our families! You are HEROS!!!
Do you have any fun camp stories or odd one in a million injuries?