HALIFAX – Tucked away in rural Nova Scotia not far from New Glasgow is a summer camp for burn survivors, one of only two in Atlantic Canada.
Camp Connect, which is taking place this week in Thorburn, has been held for 17 years.
Although the camp is primarily attended by children, it is also the only one in Canada that gives adult survivors the change to participate.
“It’s important for a survivor of a young age to see somebody who gone through the same experience and learn coping mechanisms,” said Clayton Horne, a camp co-ordinator.
Jake Falconer, an 11-year-old who’s one of the 39 campers, said he was burned in a house fire when he was a toddler.
“Other people, like at my school, they don’t understand as well as everybody else does, because other people have went through similar things,” he said.
Susan Kilfillen, one of the adult participants, was three-years old when she was burned in a house fire. She said she was told several times that she wouldn’t survive.
“There’s going to be some hard days, but you’re going to make it,” she said. “There’s going to be surgeries, but there’s going to be someone there for you.”
People taking part in the camp say it builds confidence for burn survivors.
Sara Seaboyer, a counsellor, said she was just a year-and-a-half old when she pulled on a tablecloth and spilled tea on herself, which gave her third-degree burns on more than 80% of her body.
“People can sometimes treat you differently because of your burns, but you aren’t any different then anyone else,” she said. “Burns are your story. The scars are what tells your story.”
All the counsellors at the camp are either firefighters or nurses who work in a burn unit.
Mary Beth Rowe, a nurse from the Halifax area, said interacting with the children at the camp is a very different dynamic than what she’s used to at the hospital.
“It’s great to see then acting as children, and they get to see us in a different light too,” she said. “So we’re not that person that they may have seen as a scary individual doing the burn dressings. Now we’re having fun with them.”
Horne said the camp is a positive way to follow up after the fire truck gets back to the station.
“There’s often times you’ll go to a call and a child has been burned and then they go off in the ambulance, and you kind of wonder what happened,” he said. “[Camp] is an opportunity to continue that and make sure that the job’s finished.”
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