• Deirdre Brandner

“But if they had stayed home, they would be safe” - Children with medical conditions and school camp

It can be very hard for those who don’t have a child with a serious medical condition to understand the gut-wrenching panic and fear we can feel when we have let them go on school camp or trip. There are so many times I would say to myself “wouldn’t it just be easier if he stayed home”. But I knew that I couldn’t let my own fears dictate my actions in the face of logic. I had to put on my psychology hat and remember that it is logic no anxious thinking that is accurate.

When you have a child diagnosed with a serious medical condition, as a parent you want everything humanely possible to support them and keep them safe and healthy. You also want them to live a life that allows them to access all the experiences that other children have. This condition should not stop your child from living their best life. Many many times I had to remind myself and my partner that this was value that underpinned our decisions. No matter how tough they were.

Our child needs to have experiences that let them recognise that this medical condition does not need to impact them negatively. They can still do everything they want, all that their friends are doing and follow every dream and ambition they desire. Their health should not stand in the way of living. Encourage them to go on that trip, that camp and accept an invitation that is offered. We need to model to our children that we believe that they can do this safely. Communicate that our anxiety and doubt should not impact decisions. Provide them with evidence that these opportunities can be accessed safely.

We cannot help but be stressed and frightened when we hear of the incidence of a death of a young person on a school camp or trip. Our stomach sinks when we hear of a child not getting access to an EpiPen or an asthmatic not being treated promptly. This is our greatest fear come to life. This shouldn’t happen. We can’t help asking ourselves if they had stayed home, they would be safe. We need to remember that this is letting your child’s condition limit their experiences. We cannot allow our children’s thinking to be ruled by our anxiety and therefore transfer fear and worry to them.

Each time there is a tragic, unnecessary, preventable death, there is also the opportunity for better systems, education, policies, and procedures to be put in place to ensure that our children have the same opportunities as others. Schools, camps, travel organisations and the community can be educated. It shouldn’t take the death of a child for this to happen. I cannot begin to comprehend the grief and trauma for those parents, families, teachers and staff. What I do hope is that as parents we can put aside our anxiety and know that actionable plans, directives and interventions keep our children safe.

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