Saturday, August 29, 2009

Guest Post!!!

I am so excited! Yet again, the staff of Kids of Courage never fails to amaze me. I asked Sara Miriam Kaplan, the head nurse on the Kids of Courage trip, to consider writing me a guest post. Within 24 hours, I had this masterpiece in my in box.

Thank you Sara Miriam! It's better than I ever expected.

Don't forget to go HERE to read more about Kids of Courage if you'd like.

And now, without further ado...I bring you Sara Miriam's guest post!

How do I even begin to write about what can only be described as a magical experience?

I am still on an incredible high from it all. I have been involved with Kids of Courage since its inception, a little over a year ago. This grass-roots, volunteer based organization was founded to, "Conquer Illness Through Adventure". We take children with a variety of chronic, serious, and life-limiting illnesses on adventure trips. Nuts. I know. But oh, what an experience.

Having worked as a pediatric critical care nurse for around ten years, I do not often have an opportunity to see children with serious problems enjoy themselves. This last year has changed all of that, and has changed my perception of illness and life.

I am privileged to work with an amazingly talented group of co-founders. Dr. Stuart Ditchek, M.D is a pediatrician in Brooklyn with a large number of seriously ill patients with complex medical problems. Howie Kafka is our chief paramedic, and a senior member of Hatzalah (RL-34). Ari Adlerstein is a law student.

Together with our boys head counselor and program director Ari Dobkin, and our girls head counselors Jeanne Franco and Elisheva Heyman, we have been fortunate to have a tremendous amount of help from The One Above in pulling together such an amazing trip in a ridiculously short amount of time. The decision was made to take the kids and young adults ranging in age from 6 to 26 to Orlando for a week of fun and adventure and give them the opportunity to experience things that other children their age are able to do on a regular basis. However, due to their physical challenges, our kids are often limited in their ability to do so.

From our fearless leaders, I have learned the power of not saying no, of giving every child a chance. Because of the sheer size and complexity of our group, a Continental Airlines jet was chartered from New York with 175 members of our group on it. In addition, there were flights from Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, Montreal, Houston, and Los Angeles. The scene in the airport was one of utter madness, but Continental did an amazing job in helping us pull it all together.

We arrived in Orlando and Landed on the tarmac, with the buses pulled up right next to the airplane, so the children and luggage could be loaded directly on them, without having to go through the entire airport. From that point on, it was non-stop action.

We had an amazing group of logistical staff who valiantly attempted to set up the infirmary. I really cannot begin to describe what it looked like. An incredible group of nurses (thanks Avigail, Ellen, Aline, and Ma!) complimented by Doctors (thanks Rich and Dr. D) and EMT/Medics (thanks Howie, Ranaan, Alex, and Matis) was privileged to care for the special kids and young adults.

A beautiful and uplifting Shabbos at the beginning of our trip allowed everyone to bond and enjoy each other's company. We journeyed through the Disney parks, Sea World, a Tampa Bay Rays game, along with many other phenomenal programs. There was always something planned, nobody was ever bored.

However, to me, as wonderful as all the activities were, it was learning the value of life that was the biggest lesson I took out from this. Our population is one that lives with daily challenges that as adults would just boggle our minds, but they pick up and persevere. They could be in FD crises one minute, get their Valium, and 20 minutes later be watching a show.

I have learned to look at the big picture, that we are all part of Hashem's world, and each kid is an incredible work of art. They may look different to some, but inside they are the same as every other child. Their daily routine is one of meds, doctors and hospitals, and for one week we were privileged to help them put that on the back burner.

We took a young man who is paralyzed and dependent on a ventilator on the Jurassic Park ride, with an 80 foot drop, at 50 miles an hour. Crazy. But as his mother told me when she saw the pictures, Kids of Courage treats her son like he is one of the gang.

I feel incredibly special to have been surrounded by Howie, Dr. D, and Ari who have inspired me and shown me that we can do it. Thank you for letting me be a part of it all.


Shosh said...


Anonymous said...

beautiful post

Raphi said...


porushmom said...

To all of these fabulous people who make such an incredible week possible for my extra ordinary grandson, you all have my undying love and gratitude. May Hashem grant you all good health and great joy in the coming new year.

Estie said...

Wow Sara. Amazing.