Allercy and Asthma Health
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The Official Publication of AAN - MA

Northern California’s Answer to Asthma

by Michael Monasky, RRT-NPS, RCP

Camp

As a young man in Montgomery, AL, Orie Alfred Brown, Sr., JD, taught elementary school. He then went to law school and educated college students in criminal justice, emphasizing legal procedure and civil rights. He helped establish cultural diversity policies and programs on the California State and University of California campuses.

With contacts at the Boys & Girls Club of Sacramento, he wondered what he would do after retirement. Then he encountered Sam Louie, MD, a University of California, Davis pulmonologist who informed him of the high and persistent asthma rates in children of the Central Valley. Why not establish a camp to enable kids to manage their disease? After all, asthma education was a natural extension of his vocation to teach.

A friend introduced Professor Brown to The Taylor Family Foundation. The Taylor family built a resort in the hills near Livermore on property owned by the East Bay Regional Park District to accommodate children and at-risk youth with life-threatening conditions, chronic illnesses, and disabilities. All year long, the camp functions for kids with a variety of disorders from HIV-AIDS to autism, from hemophilia to burn survivors, and now, moderate-to-severe asthma.

When I volunteered at the camp last August, the kids climbed rock walls and swam in a great pool overlooking Livermore and Mount Diablo. The sunsets and night sky were spectacular, while wild turkeys and deer paced the grounds. The Taylor staff prepared first-rate fare for all our meals. The cabins were built to award-winning, green, architectural code. Everyone ate and slept very well, as the activities were constant and accommodations were comfortable.

At awakening and just after dinner, kids gathered in the infirmary for asthma education. Kids were taught age-appropriate asthma lessons: how do I use my inhaler? What is my disease likely to do to me? They also performed skits based on topics of their own interest. Camp counselors, including student nurses, discussed asthma plans with the kids. Astonishingly, despite all the strenuous physical activities and demands of the camp, there were no adverse health events. Nobody got sick, and everyone had fun. I ought to know; my grandson wants to return to camp this year.

Al Brown has his own reasons for returning to camp and continuing it beyond its 10th anniversary. Last summer, he addressed the camp, saying that his memories include a personal conversation with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who counseled him to be Christian in his ways with all persons. It’s a commitment that springs from the very center of the civil rights movement and serves as a moral compass for this asthma camp in northern California. Respiratory therapists, nurses, pediatricians, allergists, and pulmonologist in the Sacramento area can refer kids to this camp, so consider whether your child would be able to attend.

The camp enrolls children ages 6–12 with moderate-to-severe asthma as space permits. An asthma plan from a primary care doctor is required, along with the necessary medications to accompany the child. Some additional paperwork is required from parents and guardians. Otherwise, the camp is free. Al would have it no other way. Learn more about California FairPlay at www.cafairplay.org/. •

After a long career in social work, Michael Monasky became a Registered Respiratory Therapist in Sacramento, CA, in 2010. He currently sits on the Public Health Advisory Board for the County of Sacramento.

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