July 2, 2014 11:06 am

Nova Scotia summer camp lets kids with asthma be kids

HALIFAX – Ten-year-old Audrey Barrett-Couvrette loves to play outside, but an invisible condition can sometimes put the brakes on her fun.

The young girl from Cole Harbour was diagnosed with asthma when she was five years old and said it can hinder her active lifestyle.

Audrey Barrett-Couvrette, 10, was diagnosed with asthma when she was five years old.

Julia Wong/Global News

“I like to run around a lot so it’s just hard with asthma,” she said.

“I feel sad because I can’t really do the things I really like to do. But I still do them until my asthma starts acting up.”

Her mother Joy Barrett said it’s tough because Audrey is a very active child.

“She loved to be outside but she would get winded very quickly so she would have to come in and take a rest,” she said.

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But for six days out of the year, Audrey gets the chance to play like any other 10-year-old under the care of medical specialists when she goes to Camp Treasure Chest.

The camp, which is a partnership between the Lung Association of Nova Scotia and Brigadoon, is celebrating its 25th year.

Located in the Annapolis Valley, the camp is specially tailored for children suffering from asthma.

“We have a lot of respiratory therapists on site for the children. Then we’re very careful and mindful that the activities need to be tailored just slightly for children with asthma so they are not going to trip an attack,” said David Graham, executive director of Brigadoon Village.

“Things like canoeing, swimming and playing soccer, just generally, we have to be slightly more mindful about what their condition is and be aware that we just need to be monitoring what their current health status is at all times.”

Mohammed Al-Hamdani, the manager of health initiatives for the Lung Association of Nova Scotia, said the camp doesn’t just focus on fun, but also on the importance of lung-health education.

“There’s a series of education sessions [that] teaches them how to use their puffers and how to better manage their asthma,” he said.

Al-Hamdani said the education is critical for young children still learning to cope with their condition.

“[If not], it would result in possible poor management and higher chances for asthma attacks…and could lead to hospitalization if it results in mild of severe attacks. The whole idea of the camp is to ensure they learn how to avoid those incidences,” he said.

The wide range of activities, as well as the attention to asthma care, is what brings Noah Farquhar back year after year.

Noah Farquhar said he favourite part about Camp Treasure Chest is seeing friends he has made over the years.

Julia Wong/Global News

The 15-year-old was diagnosed with asthma at the age of seven and has been attending Camp Treasure Chest for eight years.

“It’s just a fun place to go and do what you want because there are doctors there. You don’t have to worry about anything,” he said.

The Milford teen said it’s hard to tell when an asthma attack could occur and describes the pain as similar to trying to breathe through a straw.

“Your chest gets tight and you can’t breathe in or anything, it’s really hard,” Noah said.

But at Camp Treasure Chest, the teen is able to fish, swim and hang out with other kids who also suffer from asthma.

That camaraderie and the fact the camp teaches children how to better control their asthma is comforting for Noah’s father Wade.

“He’s been able to learn to live with it and deal with it, and knows what to do if he has an attack or flare up,” he said.

Audrey’s mother said she feels the same sense of security.

“Having all those people around there making sure they’re safe, happy and playing and they have the opportunity to do all the things they can’t do when they’re home is really great,” she said.

Camp Treasure Chest runs from July 27 to Aug. 1.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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