In 1991 I moved to the Atlanta area from South Florida. South Florida was the only place I’d known. I left my schools, my friends, my doctors. Not long after I moved to Georgia I also lost my feelings of being completely different from other kids. There were other kids with medical issues. Heck even Brian Thompkins only had one kidney! I was the ONLY kid with kidney problems.
Two weeks after we moved to Atlanta, I got sick. My mom took me to a new hospital. This one was different from my hospital in Miami. This one was colorful. This one had video games. This one had other kids on my hall!
When I had my first transplant at Jackson Memorial Hospital I was 11-years-old. Jackson was an adult hospital. I was SURROUNDED by old people. It sounds horrible, and it wasn’t great, but it definitely had its perks. The nurses LOVED me. All nurses love me, I’m an easy patient. These nurses loved that I was a kid. I, on the other hand thought I was the only kid with a transplant.
That changed at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. I was now 14 and there were kids my age there, too. I was sick. They were sick. We didn’t interact much, but they were there. While I was at CHOA, I was asked if I’d like to go to camp that summer. I said sure, I’m new here.
A few months later, my life changed forever. I went to Camp Independence and met 40 other kids who were JUST LIKE ME. I remember sharing stories that no one ever understood before and seeing nodding. I was not alone anymore!
Two summers later I was told camp was moving and we were going to a brand new camp that was made for kids just like us!
That summer was even more inspiring than the first year! The Camp Twin Lakes was huge (but nothing like it is now)! There was so much to do. I gained confidence. I learned about leadership. It got me involved. I started volunteering at other kidney related events when I was 16-years-old. I started volunteering at Camp Independence when I turned 18.
Almost 30 years later, I have been to (almost) all of Camp Independence weeks. I added Camp Second Chance in 1996. I added Camp Braveheart in 2002. I added various weekend camps throughout the year. I even went to a camp in North Carolina for 8 years.
Camp Twin Lakes made me who I am today. I would not be doing this trip if I’d never heard of Camp Twin Lakes. This is why Camp Twin Lakes was my most important stop in Georgia. Thank you CTL. I’ll be back in two weeks.