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Where to Get the Best Drugs at Camp Newman (and Other Secrets of Summer Camp)

Worried that your kid will come to camp and discover a hidden underground culture of drugs? Don’t.

Why? Because at Camp Newman, the location of the biggest drug stash is a well known secret. In fact, this being California, first day camper orientation includes an explanation of when and how you can get your fix.

Drug Stash Revealed
I’m speaking, of course, about the Mirpa’ah (our infirmary) and its enormous stash of medical drugs (tylenol, advil, etc.). Camp Newman’s Mirpa’ah is staffed with so many medical personnel, who know how to combine the best camp diagnostic tools (usually a thermometer), the most up to date over the counter medication, and ample amounts of TLC (tender loving care) that they can handle at camp a vast majority of the situations which arise. It is comforting to know that at camp my three kids – and Congregation Or Ami’s 45 – are so well taken care of.

When Does Camp Really Begin?
Speaking of my kids, no sooner do they arrive at camp, then the Mirpa’ah countdown begins. How long will it take until a Kipnes/November kid winds up in the Mirpa’ah? Like a chocoholic drawn to a Milky Way bar, my kids are drawn to the Mirpa’ah. In fact, in some ways, camp is truly set in motion once a Kipnes/November kid spends time in the Mirpa’ah. Until then, camp infirmary is like a car right off the assembly line: all the parts are there, it should work, but you just can’t be sure until you put the key in the ignition and shift into drive. Our kids, it seems, are the keys to the ignition of Camp Newman’s Mirpa’ah.

Every summer, without fail, we get a message that one of our three kids has entered the infirmary. One year, Daniel sliced the top off his toe (now camp is strict about the “no open toes shoes” policy). Another year saw Noah quarantined as part of “Swine ’09,” the swine flu outbreak that required camps to separate out for seven days any kid with a fever. We have had everything from ingrown toenails and blisters to allergies and pneumonia.

How Do You Score a Private Room at Camp?
Camp is all about sharing a bunk with 7-10 other kids of the same age. Friendships are formed that last a lifetime. Sometime, though, a guy just needs a break from all the camaraderie. So how does one score a private room at camp?

My son Daniel discovered the answer when he needed to spend his third through eighth days in the Mirpa’ah. With fever and more, he scored room 3 – the “suite” – where he watched movies on the computer and received sympathy from the staff and campers. We like to joke that he also field-tested the Mirpa’ah processes, ensuring that the always fantastic staff were truly on the best game.

Of course, he enjoyed (endured?) the illness experience at camp much more than he would have at home. At home, we pump him full of medication, feed him and of necessity, go about our business. At camp, he got more TLC than even his doting mother could provide.

Where Do Adults Hold Hands at Camp?
When Daniel spiked 103 degrees for the second and third time, this calm camp parent became a bit more agitated and anxious. Like all parents, I put my trust in the Mirpa’ah staff. I needed some serious handholding, and the infirmary staff were just the people to do it.

Daniel was treated hourly or more by an excellent infirmary staff, headed by two doctors, PhD-toting Nurses, and many other degree-toting medical professionals. They worked around the clock diagnosing, medicating, feeding, and cleaning up. In addition, they took and recorded his temperature hourly, and treated my boy as if he were their only concern. Just as they do by phone with parents of other sick campers, they kept me informed of his progress and our options for treatment.

These incredible medical professional are up early, dealing with everything from overnight illness to bed-wetting little boys to enormous amounts of morning medications. They work late, awaiting the inevitable moment when the camp shuts down for the night so they can sleep. Still, rarely a night goes by without the “on call” nurse being awoken to deal with a camper with some issue.

So Daniel was released from the Mirpa’ah when he was fever-free (and other symptom-free) for 24 hours. He is healthy, happy and fully functional. Of course, the next unfortunate patient moved into his (deeply cleaned) medical “suite.” And the cycle of illness and healing continues.

Who Are these Incredible Volunteer Nurses and Doctors?
All of the medical staff are volunteers, most taking their own vacation time to volunteer at camp. Their compassion and care has no limits. It takes a whole village to care for a kid. At camp, that includes counselors, rashim (unit heads), program and support staff, kitchen crew and maintenance staff. They all deserve our appreciation and thanks for making the summers great for our kids.

But don’t forget to thank the medical staff. The unsung heroes of the summer camp, celebrate most when everything is quiet (though superstition prohibits them for saying aloud that everything seems “quiet”).

And so this summer, for these first two weeks, I thank our medical staff:

  • Roberta Bavin PNP DNP
  • Tanya Buynevich RN
  • Deepika Goyal PhD FNP
  • Diana Sherman PNP
  • Juliana Stewart RN
  • Dr. Greg Hirsch
  • Dr. Lona Larsh
  • Dr. Karon Seal
  • Dr. Joey Robinow
  • And Alisa Robinow, MOM (extraordinaire)

Thank you for caring for my kid. Thank you for holding my hand. Thank you for ensuring that we parents can send our kids off to camp without having to worry about their health and safety.

Postscript: How Does Camp Deal with Sibling Rivalry?
A few days after Daniel was released from the Mirpa’ah, his younger brother Noah hobbled in with a smashed toenail. Swearing it was an accident (and with plenty of witnesses to testify to this), Noah’s injury nonetheless set off a wild discussion about whether he was just hoping to “one up” his older brother. The verdict is still out on that one.

Finally, if you had to get sick at camp

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