Based on my experience at previous camps, I was assigned to be Lexi’s counselor for the entire week. Lexi was nine and had cerebral palsy. She was confined to a wheelchair and was non-verbal. Within the first few minutes, I realized that Lexi’s condition would be an entirely new situation for me. I had never had a camper who was non-verbal, and all of my previous campers had been able to perform the basic tasks we are presented with each day. Lexi was entirely dependent on me for all of her basic human needs.
As the week went on, I was faced with challenges that most of us would overlook as we go about our daily activities. From getting across thick sand and rocky paths in her wheelchair, to trying to communicate with someone that is completely non-verbal and has no muscle control. I was forced to learn to be selfless every hour of the day for an entire week and realized how self-fulfilling it could be. Even as I write this, I understand the self-absorbed tone that it must have; however, I will be forever grateful for learning this lesson at seventeen rather than much later in life.
After a few days all the conflicts became easier. I developed a personal connection and learned how she communicated with people. I quickly realized she understands what everyone says to her; she just replies differently than others due to her limitations. For example, for Lexi to say yes she either blinks or smiles, and for Lexi to say no she makes a frown face. As our relationship progressed, I began to see the obstacles in front of us as minor inconveniences instead of major challenges. We would just go from one issue to the next in order to accomplish what needed to be done.
Caring for Lexi made me become selfless. This was the easiest challenge to overcome. She was my priority, and it was an extremely rewarding experience being devoted to her for the week. Watching others in situations similar to mine, I started to obtain knowledge on what type of tactics might work for Lexi. I think this helped Lexi and I bond on a personal level. This alone helped me to keep working hard throughout the week.
As I found a way to overcome all the situations I was faced with, the remaining days became easier. Everything was going well, until the fourth day. An event struck that I never could have anticipated or expected. Our group was at an activity when Lexi went into distress. It was a shock for all of us. Our staff leader of the group, Lexi, and I rushed to the clinic. As we realized she was in respiratory distress, all of our hearts dropped. The head nurse called the paramedics within a few seconds after we arrived. They put me in charge of her breathing treatments.
Lexi began to stress out as more people came in. I remember my heart racing and my head spinning. I continued to hold the breathing mask firm on her face so she received oxygen. She became stabilized just moments before the paramedics arrived. My heart continued to race. Never in a million years would I expect this situation to arise. I couldn’t believe that something like this could happen to me and Lexi. The paramedics had me step away so they could evaluate her. I could only watch. As I noticed her facial expressions, her only form of communication, I could tell she was getting stressed out by the paramedics crowding her and invading her space. I felt the need to express what I have learned from Lexi the previous days this week. I explained to them how she is trying to express to them that she needs her space. As the paramedics listened to my suggestion, she began breathing on her own and recovering.
My youth director, the camp director, and myself took a moment in prayer. I could tell by the paramedics reaction that they did not know what to do next. They weren’t used to special needs children, or Lexi. They didn’t know how to communicate with her or her what her normal condition was. Camp Blessing taught me that just listening, observing, and being selfless could help me in an emergency that one could never expect to happen. After that week at camp with Lexi, I always try to embrace the fact that the opportunity to learn is not limited by circumstances or even personal limitations.
Being with Lexi and at Camp Blessing that week, allowed me to not only discover myself, but it helped me decide what I want to pursue in college. My experience from Camp Blessing, gave me the opportunity to grow in my relationship with Christ, as well as, make friends for a lifetime. It gave a new perspective on how I portray everyday encounters. I want to become selfless and show God’s love with everything I do and my Camp Blessing experience gave me the stepping stone to fulfill this.
Written By: Anna Morse,
Cypress UMC Youth & Volunteer