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Camp Nurse stories: Crazy letters to the nurse

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Every child is super special. And no one knows that better than the camp nurse on her first day….

The following is an excerpt from the chapter “The business of fun” from the book Camp Nurse by Tilda Shalof.

While the campers and parents said their goodbyes, I stood browsing through a growing pile of letters addressed “Attention: Camp Nurse.”

Connor stutters and kids pick on him a lot. Has a hard time with letter-writing (no spell- check at camp!), so counselors, please help. Also, very sensitive to many things, especially loud noise and flashing lights. Please, no strobe lights!

Shawna is afraid of snakes. Please ensure that she has no contact with snakes. NO SNAKES.

Wayne doesn’t like to be touched. Please give him a warning if you want to hug him or pat him on the back. Must carry bug spray with him at all times. He worries about West Nile Virus. He tends to be quiet, prefers to sleep in his clothes and will not change them unless forced to by counselors. Gets a rash if he sits around in wet bathing suit for too long. Can’t handle lack of privacy. Does not respond to a sarcastic tone. He doesn’t like to swim in cold water (takes a long time to get in), but drinks only cold water.

Melanie is a gifted singer. Please tell the musical director she must have a decent part in the camp play. She was overlooked last year. A HUGE mistake. It’s been bad for her
self-esteem!

Josh can play soccer, but not as goalie. [Was that offered as a health advisory or a game strategy?]

Shane is not officially gifted but tested VERY close.

If Brian can’t sleep, give him two Tylenols to settle him down. Has some anger issues. Is working on controlling his temper.

Mandy has a wheat and dairy intolerance and is allergic to peas, tree nuts and all legumes. May also be allergic to poopy [sic] seeds? Has never had a reaction but must
carry EpiPen with her at all times.

Some notes were alarming, all the more so because of their cryptic matter-of-factness.

Darren had an isolated episode of hysterical blindness but has experienced a complete cure. Stress-related. Michael and Jenna’s father died a few months ago (suicide) and I’m hoping camp will help them take their mind off of things.

Deanna’s father and I have divorced recently. She needs to be with other children of divorced parents to talk things over. Has hay fever and is in a complicated love triangle with her parents. Vomits easily and likes things organized. High anxiety if there is disorder.

Please keep an eye on Samantha. She was recently hospitalized due to weight loss. She’s fine now, but FYI.

Megan recently gained fifteen pounds and needs to lose it! We’re praying she’ll lose weight at camp. Please make sure she doesn’t lie on her bed reading all summer and weigh her once a week.

I need to be informed of everything. Notify me if you intend on giving Chad anything, even a Tylenol.

Reading these notes and seeing the parents say their goodbyes made me realize how hard it must be for parents to give up control and entrust their children to the care of strangers. It brought home how huge my responsibilities would be with the children in the weeks to come and how important it would be for me to be that reassuring voice on the phone to their parents.

Most kids were handling the goodbyes fairly well, even the boy who was jumping up and down just before getting on the bus. He explained, “I’m trying to get rid of everything I learned at school.” He pulled at his scalp in an attempt to expel the offending material.

The kids were coping, but the parents, not so well. I was just about to pack up my car when a mother in tears ran over and threw herself on me. “Please look after my darling babies!”

She grasped my shoulders and pulled me close.

“What are your children’s names?” So I’ll know which ones to avoid.

Excerpted from Camp Nurse. Copyright © 2009 Tilda Shalof. Published by McClelland & Stewart Ltd. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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Tilda Shalof

Tilda Shalof RN, BScN, CNCC (C) has been a staff nurse in the Medical-Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Toronto General Hospital of the University Health Network, for the past twenty-four years. She is also the author of the bestseller, A Nurse’s Story and an outspoken patient advocate, passionate nurse leader, public speaker, and media commentator. She lives in Toronto with her husband, Ivan Lewis and their two sons, Harry and Max. Learn more about Tilda and her books at nursetilda.com.
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