ETCH oncology, hematology patients spend a week at camp

TOWNSEND (WATE) – Some East Tennessee kids are spending a week at camp when they are usually spending their time in the hospital. East Tennessee Children’s Hospital is hosting Camp Eagle’s Nest for the hematology and oncology patients.

Fifty-five kids are spending five days at Camp Wesley Woods in Townsend taking their minds off their diseases.

“I’ve had 11 rounds of chemo. I have Ewing Sarcoma,” said Ethan Parsley. “I like got diagnosed, and I was just like maybe I can make some new friends and come here.”

For the past 30 years, ETCH has been bringing patients like Ethan to camp.

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“They just are going to go through a lot of different things than a normal child would have to go through, a lot of hospitalizations, a lot of pokes and not fun stuff. And sometimes they don’t get to go to camp like normal kids do because they have to have special medical care,” said Anna Taylor, a Child Life Specialist at ETCH.

The medical staff lets the kids do anything in the camp that they are able to do. Some kids say they have been able to overcome obstacles they never knew they could.

“We have been doing like rope courses. We’ve been swimming. We’ve been going through lakes. We’ve hiked to a waterfall,” said Ethan.

It takes almost a full year of planning to make sure they can come, with doctors and nurses on hand just in case.

“If there’s an emergency, if there’s a problem, we’re ready for that. We’ve always been ready for that,” said Dr. Susan Spiller, a Pediatric Oncologist at ETCH. “We draw labs if we need to. We take them back and forth to clinic if they need something, but mostly we let them be kids.”

The hope is to let the kids spend five days not focusing on the disease, but being themselves and having a little summer fun.

“It is really good to be out of the hospital. It’s just, to be able to get fresh air and things like that, breathe in the wild,” said Ethan.

None of the kids’ families have to pay for them to go to camp. It is all funded on donations from the community.

If you would like to help a child go to camp, you can visit their website.

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