This letter is written for everyone who was involved in Jacob's care at Camp Yaldei this summer. This includes his three counselors, two rotators, medical people, camp directors, the girls who formed a human chain to prevent our car from driving away and everyone else who helped him have such a super time:
When our van pulled up at camp on June 29, I saw a bunch of counselors gathered on the porch of the cabin. We stopped our car and I got out. I opened the side door and started unbuckling Jacob's car seat. At that moment, someone from the porch noticed who was in the car and yelled “Jacob's here”. The next thing I knew, there was a swarm of orange sweatshirts around Jacob and my son was yanked out of my arms by an excited staff member and whisked away.
Later, when his medications were unpacked and I finished reviewing his feeding and medical schedule with Mr. Friedman and the nurse, I went looking for my son. I found him lying on the trampoline with Sarah-Yitti. They were bouncing, singing and laughing together.
After we said goodbye, he went right back to his game and I heard his laughter as I walked away.
People have asked me if it was hard leaving Jacob at camp and they are surprised when I tell them “no, it was actually quite easy”.
Jacob clearly has medical issues that can be, and did prove to be, challenging and complex. As his mother, I could have said that I wasn't comfortable sending my son so far away and keep him at home, under my watchful eye. But I didn't. I chose to allow my son to experience what most kids love, and what he would have undoubtedly experienced had he not been born with PMD – going to sleep-away camp. I had to weigh the risks against the advantages.
During the four weeks he was away, I received a series of text messages from Bracha every night telling me about Jacob's day, followed by photographs of Jacob, alone and with others. In each picture Jacob had the most enormous smile. It was clear that he was having fun. And from the tone of her messages, it was evident that his counselors were too.
Jacob's unexpected seizure caught everyone off guard, including me. And it scared his caregivers. We debated bringing him home but Rabbi Whitman told me that as long as I was comfortable with him staying, and provided that Jake’s doctors concurred, the camp was willing to keep him in their care.
Although I am not fully aware of the lengths people went to in order for Jacob to attend camp, I do know that there were several counselors who came up specifically to help care for my son. I am extremely grateful and humbled by the generosity of these caring girls. And because of his medical situation, he required a disproportionate amount of the medical staffs’ time and attention. But all these people gave of themselves and all they wanted in return was to see Jacob’s smile and hear his contagious laugh.
The purpose of Camp Yaldei, from what I understand, is to provide Jewish children with an overnight camp experience that they would otherwise be unable to have. Jacob had the ultimate camp experience: he went swimming, played basketball, bounced on the trampoline and rode in a motor boat. But most importantly, he made a lot of friends and had a fabulous time.
Thank you to everyone who helped make his experience so special.