Our family story..
Back in 2009, at the age of 9, our eldest child Joel was, by chance, found to have a heart condition. We knew at the time that there was a strong chance that Joel would, at some point, require open heart surgery. In August 2014, we found that this surgery was now necessary with a level of urgency. So, in December 2014, our family went through the most stressful and anxiety-inducing week, as Joel went through full open-heart surgery.
We never saw ourselves as a family that would need the support of Camp Simcha. We are blessed to have a supportive family and we are part of a wonderful community that go above and beyond the call of duty to support one another. However, the reality is that when you go through an experience like this, especially when you don’t know others who have experienced the same, it’s hard to know what you need.
At 14 years old, I had open heart surgery to treat Subaortic Stenosis following annual monitoring after a heart murmur which was discovered aged nine. My condition significantly deteriorated in August 2014 and at this point we were told the surgery was much more urgent and in December 2014, I went under the knife.
It should be noted that after a house fire in June 2014, my life and my families was totally upside down and in a total mess. As someone who already had a major hospital phobia, It completely swung me mentally to the extent that even in school in Yr10, a time when you begin GCSE prep, my behaviour went completely downhill as I couldn’t cope with the amount going on in my life. I was given two exceptional mentors (who I am still in touch with and can get a quote from) who prepared me for surgery and allowed me to have a `safe space` as I was dealing with a range of emotions in the lead up to surgery and my current illness. I had the surgery in December and following a 6 month recovery was back to normal in May 2015.
What Camp Simcha meant to us and our favourite memories
The support given to us by Camp Simcha was invaluable. The buddying for our other children, the Shabbat package that arrived at the hospital, the counselling and the support workers – everything was covered. Camp Simcha also looked after our younger children by treating them to a night at the theatre to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory , just to enable them to feel a little spoilt as all the attention was on Joel.
Sometimes, you don’t know what you need until you need it. To have an organisation that is one step ahead at all times is remarkable. It lifts the stress, provides support and helps you to think when your head has too much to think about.
Camp Simcha allowed my family to have other parts of their life looked after. They allowed my siblings to cope during my illness and they took care of the `small` details for my parents, such as taxis too and from the hospital, meals etc. They were also there to support my siblings at their time of need as well.
Where we are now
Eight years down the line, Joel is fine. He has a few minor restrictions and he has to keep a close eye on his health and fitness, plus there are annual check-ups with his heart specialist.
Thank G-d I am now fine but I still have yearly check ups and I am working getting expert dietary advice to keep my lifestyle under control to prevent a recurrence. The mental side of the surgery and the trauma I had to deal with is something I am still managing but without Camp Simcha, the whole surgery process could not have gone as smoothly as it did.
Why we are happy to be part of Camp Simcha Alumni
The idea of a Camp Simcha Alumni network is fantastic. Nobody knows when they will need such an amazing community service. For me, my story is something I am proud of and through sharing my story can help others find the strength to win their own battle against their own illness.