The Marathon that is Camp Physicals

I am mentally prepared when the first group of campers arrive. I had been very thoughtful in trying to decide what to cover in the ‘camp physical’. Obviously I was not going to be able to conduct a FULL physical. Can you imagine? I cringed thinking of checking for hernias in all these boys! Neither of us would like that. Basically I decided what my role was, was to first check for anything that might be communicable and then check on the camper’s general well being. Lice, strep throat, pink eye, impetigo, gastroenteritis are the most obvious problems that could spread by wild fire in this environment. Open wounds (even little ones can get infected in this environment of dirt and lake water), swimmers ear (would only get worse at camp), brewing ear infections — these would all need to be monitored.

The four counselors have the 20 Deer hut boys sit on the floor outside my office. They are very subdued, whispering quietly, and staring at me. I give them a shy wave.

A counselor by the name of Rob introduces me. He is the Deer hut head counselor and he takes his job very seriously. He paces back and forth in front of the campers.

“OK you guys. You remember The Nurse was introduced at the dining hall. She is going to be the camp nurse during your 2 week session. If you have medications that you must take, you will come up and see The Nurse after meals or before bedtime, depending on when you take your medicines. Do you understand?” They all nod, wide eyed and stare at me some more.

“Hi guys. I’m Anne.” I say and wave again. I don’t really want to be called ‘The Nurse’ for two weeks. I think of working the floors in the hospital and having confused patients yelling “Nurse! Nurse!” at the top of their lungs so it has a bad connotation. Kinda impersonal for camp too since we are going to be living together for the session.

“Tonight, The Nurse will be doing a quick check of each camper to see if you are healthy. You will also give her any of your medications that you had in your bag.”

Wait…what? More medications? I look around and notice about eight of the kids are holding ziplock bags with medications. Oh Lord! MORE meds? Son of a Sasquatch! I wasn’t sure I would be able to close the med Dear hut med drawer now.

“The Nurse will check you out in alphabetical order guys. So, let’s have you sound off!” Rob barks out sounding like a drill sergeant.

The kids start calling out “One!” 




And so on. There is a stall at ‘fifteen’ because one little guy is whispering to his buddy. With the silence after ‘fourteen’ everyone looks around until ‘fifteen’ realizes it is him and shouts out “Fifteen!” at which point his buddy breaks out into hysterical laughter while ‘fifteen’ blushes uncontrollably.

“OK!” I nod slowly, smile, and give them a thumbs up. “That was awesome. Now if I could have number one and two come on in here we will get started.” I indicate the chairs set up in the office. Two little boys scramble to their feet and enter the office. I wave them over to have a seat in the chairs. I check my list of campers for the Deer hut.

“So you must be Kurt?” I look at the one boy who is nine. He nods. He is wearing a baseball t-shirt, khaki shorts, sports socks and running shoes. There is a glob of tomato sauce on his shirt (FYI it is Diana sauce. Every red sauce is Diana sauce at camp. They have a drum of it in the kitchen.). I noticed that they don’t have napkins with the meals, so it looks like Kurt was industrious and just used his shirt to wipe off his mouth. Nice touch.

“And then you must be Thomas.” I say to the other boy who stands a little shorter than Kurt. Thomas shyly nods. He is wearing a white t-shirt that proclaims ‘Drug free and proud’, Adidas shorts, and velcro sandals.  Thomas did not think to use his shirt to wipe his mouth, so he still had tomato sauce and some other substance around his mouth. It took all my strength not to grab a sheet of paper towel and wipe down his face.

“We are brothers.” Kurt pipes up and motions towards Thomas. Thomas sitting on the chair, is swinging his legs back and forth and is looking, wide eyed, around the office.

“Awh! That is nice!  It will be good to have your brother with you for the session.” I say smiling at the boys.

“Yah. This is Thomas’ first time at camp. He’s pretty nervous. I was here last year. So I know all about Camp Acorn and I told Thomas I would look after him.” Kurt offers proudly.

“That will be nice for you both! I bet your parents will miss you while you are here though, eh?”

“Oh ya. Mum said she would be really sad.” Kurt says.

“Ya, ya! So she and Daddy are going to go to visit some friends in a place called Ba-ha-mas so that they will not be as sad.” Thomas adds helpfully.

“So our grandparents will be visiting us on visitors day instead of Mum and Dad.” Kurt pipes up.

Wow. Nice. Kids are away and the parents will play. I’m gonna file that plan away for future use!

“OK guys. Are you both feeling well? Have you been sick in the last week?” I ask. They both shake their heads.

“So, no coughs or colds or runny noses? No stomach bugs?” I query as I check for any enlarged cervical nodes that might indicate infection.

“Well I had a snotty nose once and I had to blow it and blow it and blow it and then my nose turned red and it hurt and my Mum had to put cream on it but that hurt so I cried and then she took it off.” Thomas offered as he mimed blowing his nose. 

“No Thomas ya dope! That was like a’hundred years ago. She doesn’t care ’bout that!” Kurt said while rolling his eyes heavenward. 

Moving on! “Do you have any cuts or rashes that you want to show me?” They both look thoughtful and begin to examine their arms and legs.

“Like this?” Thomas offers pointing to a microscopic mosquito bite on his arm. 

“Or this?” Kurt shows me an old bruise on his shin that is so old it is now green and fading. 

“Nah. I mean big cuts, with, like, maybe your guts falling out. Or a rash with goobers coming out of it. You got anything like that?” I ask.

The boys smile, giggle and shake their heads.

“Good! Now I’m just gonna check your hair for bugs.” I say and I start to part Kurt’s hair and then take a peek behind each ear looking for any critters. Then I move onto Thomas. “Well, it looks like you didn’t bring any tiny friends with you to camp, so that is good!”

I grab the otoscope. “Now I am gonna look in your ears.” I gently tug on their ears and have a looky-see. Looks pretty clear in there. Some minor ear wax, but no redness or bulging ear drums. 

I grab the flashlight and have the boys say “Ahhh!” This proves to be difficult. Kurt cannot manage to keep his tongue down. It keeps balling up making it almost impossible to see past it. Thomas is not much better cuz his tongue is wiggles around the tongue depressor like a chubby caterpillar.

With that I have concluded two out of eighty camp physicals! Over the next forty minutes I check the remainder of the Dear hut campers. I fine tune my methods. One of the counselors, a tall lanky physical education major named Emily, asks if she can help me. I immediately take her up on her offer by getting her to check heads for lice as I teach her how to do this. She is delighted by the seemingly gruesome task and takes relish in using a couple of pencils to separate the hair for a good look. Fortunately she never did find any. 🙂

In the end I find that the Deer hut kids are pretty healthy except for a few sore throats (no fevers though, so that is good). I have also managed to collect another ten ziplock bags of meds, one of which includes two epinephrine pens for a life threatening allergic reaction to peanut butter. This makes me very nervous, but I take some comfort in knowing that the camp is officially peanut free. 

When the last kids are completed I thank Emily profusely for her help. Then I step out into the hallway to thank the Deer hut campers. I have a few minutes before the Cord hut is scheduled to arrive. By this time the Deer hut boys are getting rambunctious and the counselors are attempting to keep them entertained with a game called ‘Mafia’. 

“Thanks Deer hut! Have fun at camp and stay healthy. OK?” I say to the group.

“OK Deer hut! Next up on the agenda is a tour of the camp grounds. Say ‘Thanks’ to The Nurse!” Rob yells above the cacophony as the boys get up.

“Thanks Nurse!” The boys yell. Some of them wave as the begin filing down the back staircase. 

“Anne.” I say after them. “It’s Anne…..”

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