BY: Katrina Segers, Staff Writer
Caitlyn Hetzel, 9, said her first asthma attack occurred while she watched TV.
“It felt like my neighbor’s dog was on my chest and it’s a 20-pound dog,” she said.
That incident scared her, Caitlyn, Lee’s Summit, Mo., said, but now she knows why the attack happened and what to do about it next time because she attended the Ninth Annual Superkids Asthma Day Camp, held at the Jewish Community Center, 5801 W. 115th St., Overland Park.
“The stuff in the air will go everywhere and the stuff that you breathe in is bad for you, well, mostly if you are allergic to it,” she said. “You’ll have an asthma attack and your lungs will tighten, (so) you take a rescue inhaler.”
Melissa Ford, executive director of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Greater Kansas City Chapter and camp director, said the goal of the camp is education.
“Knowledge is definitely power with this camp,” she said.
Physicians, nurses and social workers spoke to the group of 26 children about what asthma is, common triggers and how to avoid them, and general ways to stay healthy, Ford said.
“We talk about the benefits of taking the medication, being able to identify when they are having an attack,” she said. “Those are the kinds of things we are trying to promote.”
Jack Osborn, 9, Overland Park, said he has had an attack “once or twice” and the attacks scared him because he could not breathe.
“I won’t be as scared, probably, because I know that I should take my medicine every day, so I know it won’t happen again, except maybe if I get off track on my medicine,” he said.
Jack’s mother, Amy, said Jack benefited from the camp by finding companionship among other asthma sufferers.
“Kids usually at my school don’t have asthma and don’t know much about it,” Jack said.
Amy said doctors gave Jack an asthma I.D. bracelet after his diagnosis at age 1. She said wearing the I.D. bracelet has always been a struggle for Jack because other children will ask him why he wears it.
“Something struck me yesterday,” she said. “They passed out I.D. bracelets; all the kids got them and he wore his. He felt like he fit in.”
Ford said the children often find camaraderie at the camp.
“They take comfort in knowing that they are normal kids and they can do the normal things that other kids do,” she said. “We do outdoor activities and gym activities and a lot of that is to get them working together and having fun, but it’s also for them to understand that they can still do exercise, they just have to be more careful.”
The campers swam, played outdoors, visited Kauffman Stadium and met Slugger; decorated picture frames and bags; and met area athletes who have asthma.
The five-day camp wrapped up Friday with the Asthma Olympics, which combined education and activities students have worked on throughout the week, Ford said.
“People who have asthma can do anything they want to do, just like any ordinary person,” Jack said.