Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Medical Day Camp is a Cut Above

The scalpel was steady as the first cut was made. Slowly … carefully … the cornea of the donated eye was sliced neatly and removed. Held up with tweezers for examination, the operation was declared a success.

The surgeon in this case was wearing scrubs and anti-infection gear, but she holds no medical degree. It was Leslie Jones’ first such operation. She is 15.

Leslie was one of 15 middle and high school students who participated in
Fauquier Health System’s first-ever Medical Camp June 25 and 26. The camp, organized by the VIPeds committee, introduced the students to respiratory therapy, IV skills, orthopedics, nursing, medical ethics, the hospital’s laboratory and pharmacy, medical imaging and vascular techniques, in addition to surgery.

“We had a mock code this morning,” said Leslie after the cornea harvesting exercise on the second day of camp. “I was a clinical technician. We did CPR, put in tubes. There was a lot of action. It was ‘controlled chaos,’ just like we were told it would be. An ‘injured’ camper came in with the rescue squad. We were moving pretty quickly. It was an adrenaline rush.”

It was a useful experience for Leslie; she would like to be an ED physician in a few years.

All of the students who attended Medical Camp are currently working as Junior Volunteers around the health system, and they all entertain medical aspirations.

Danyelle McDaniel would like to be a trauma doctor or nurse in the ED. When approaching the eye surgery, Danyelle said, “It was fun. But at first I was afraid I wasn’t going to do it right.” It all worked out just fine, though, and then the “surgeons” helped themselves to donuts and energy bars.

Leslie added, “Everything we’ve done has been really interesting, and not hard to learn. I enjoyed suturing yesterday.” (The students practiced their stitching on chicken legs.)

The girls particularly appreciated the hands-on nature of the camp lessons. They were able to ventilate a (mannequin) baby; perform ultrasound on one another; mix medicines; and insert an IV (on a training arm).

One of the camp organizers, Wendy Greenwood, RN, said that one of the girls couldn’t wait to tell her mom that they actually got to “do stuff.” Wendy said with a big smile, “She said her mom said that they’d be sitting and listening to lectures, that there was no way we’d let them be hands-on. She couldn’t wait to get home and tell her mom she was wrong.”

The girls were challenged during a discussion of medical ethics and were introduced to some tough realities during a talk by Bill Proctor, executive director of Old Dominion Eye Foundation. He talked about facing the parents of a 16-year-old, killed in a car accident and talking to them about organ donations. He described a 6-year-old girl opening her eyes and seeing for the first time after a cornea transplant. He related the story of a high school football player who earned a scholarship to play in college after a successful bone transplant. And he told how a 12-year-old child died two days after a family reversed its decision to donate their deceased child’s heart.

The students were engaged and interested. “How do you donate skin?” one asked, then listened thoughtfully when Bill Proctor answered her question and elaborated about the need for skin transplants for burn victims.

All of the presenters were eager to participate in the medical camp. Wendy related that she was impressed with how willing all the departments were to help teach the students. “We’re training our replacements,” she laughed.

Students were given some mementos of the day: a key chain shaped like a skeleton hand; a pen that looked like a hypodermic needle; their own suturing practice kit, and of course, their own personal scrubs, in Fauquier Health System teal with the VIPeds logo in place.

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