Texas Children's camp for patients pumps up excitement

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Once a year, children ages 8 through 12 get a chance to escape reality for a while and head off to a special camp that caters to them. The campers have a variety of heart conditions, but just getting away from it all -- even just for one weekend -- means the world to many of them.

"(They're) children who have heart transplants, or (are) missing half of their heart and have had multiple surgeries. Some who have had (cardiac catheterization) procedures or heart rhythm disturbances, so all kinds of heart problems," explained Dr. Heather Dickerson.

She's the medical director at Camp Pump It Up. Counselors and volunteers gather for one magical weekend in the spring to give each child the best camping experience possible.

"Zip lining to horseback riding, fishing, canoeing, running around. They have a dance every year that they all get dressed up for," Dickerson said.

Because many of the campers have limitations due their cardiac conditions, the camp is fully equipped to address any situation.

"We bring a fully staffed physician and nurse team. So if there are problems, we can handle those," Dickerson told us.

A veteran camper himself, Taylor Berry is now 20 years old. He's received two heart transplants so far, and unfortunately, is waiting for a third.

"I was diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy when I was 4 years old," Taylor said.

"He basically has a heart muscle disease, his heart muscle failed and was unable to survive without getting a heart transplant," Dickerson said.

Immunosuppressive drugs cannot block all the body's responses to transplanted organs. He was 4 years old when he received his first heart, and 15 for his second. His body is chronically rejecting that one, so Taylor is now waiting to receive his third. But Camp Pump It Up gives him a way to connect with others going through similar experiences.

"Anytime you're dealing with surgery or your heart, it's a major thing, and just having people that you can talk to about it that are also going through something like that, it takes a lot of pressure off your shoulders," Taylor said.

Starting out as a young camper himself, Taylor now goes back every year as a counselor. In a way, it's helped him pave the path for his future.

Taylor said, "Becoming a nurse would be the best way to give back, and also a way I can help other people."
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