BY: CHELSEA OWUSU
A Canadian summer camp is recognizing the need to support and protect children living with sickle cell disease. Camp Jumoke is Canada’s first medically supervised summer camp focused on helping children diagnosed with sickle cell disease.
“Recognizing the need for children with sickle cell disease to have a positive and safe peer outdoor pursuit, Camp Jumoke was established to provide these children with a special place to experience camp,” says Judy Grandison, president of Camp Jumoke.
As of today, over 600 children have been able to attend summer camp because of Camp Jumoke. “Through this outdoor experience, children living with sickle cell disease develop an appreciation for their own capabilities as well as learn vital social and outdoor skills which might not otherwise be readily available,” says Grandison.
Camp Jumoke is a Canadian organization that was co-founded in 1994 by members of The Association for the Advancement of Blacks in Health Sciences (AABHS). In 1995, Camp Jumoke was incorporated as a non-profit organization and was registered as a charitable organization in the following year. Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. Red blood cells become hard and sticky, and resemble a C-shaped farm tool, known as a “sickle.”
“During what has become known as a crisis, patients become ill and can be hospitalized for days, weeks, and sometimes even months,” says Grandison. This disease can make it difficult for patients to live a normal life.
“During a crisis, the sickle cells die early. This causes a constant shortage of red blood cells. Also, while traveling through small blood vessels, red blood cells get stuck and clog the blood flow,” says Grandison.
This red blood cell disorder can cause chronic and severe pain. It can also lead to other serious health problems such as infections, stroke, acute chest syndrome, and in severe cases, death. Camp Jumoke not only provides support for children living with sickle cell but is raising awareness doing so.
“The children that attend Camp Jumoke are integrated with the children at the host camp, Camp Wenonah. Those children have the opportunity to meet our campers and learn about an illness that most of them probably have never heard of before,” says Grandison.
Camp Jumoke also attends many different community functions to help raise awareness about their work and its importance.
“It has been over 100 years since sickle cell disease was discovered and there is still so much work to be done. Awareness needs to be raised because there are still people who furrow their brow when I tell them that my son has sickle cell disease,” says Grandison.
“Awareness needs to raised because there are hospitals across this country that would have no idea what to do if a sickle cell disease patient walked into their emergency room.”
According to Grandison, many people in severe pain from the disease, are commonly labeled by medical professionals as “drug seekers” due to the amount of medication needed to treat the patient. “My question is this: can you see pain? Awareness needs to be raised because people are still dying from sickle cell disease and as a mother of a child with sickle cell disease, this is not okay,” says Grandison.
Camp Jumoke will be hosting an event, as a part of their fight to raise awareness for sickle cell disease.“On June 3rd, Camp Jumoke will be partnering with TAIBU Community Health Centre to host a fun-filled family event at Nathan Phillips Square, with a special focus on sickle cell disease,” says Grandison.
Attendees can expect to hear from members of the community, families living with sickle cell disease, and healthcare professionals working to change current circumstances for patients. The Canadian Federal Government has officially proclaimed June 19th as World Sickle Cell Day.
“Most importantly, people can expect to learn how they can take action on June 19th to not only celebrate the Federal Proclamation of World Sickle Cell Awareness Day but also to show that although this is an amazing first step, there is still lots of work to be done,” says Grandison.