By Jeff Kinney
As a child, one of thing things I missed most was camp – not camp specifically, so much, but the cherished sense of independence that only comes from living away from your parents. Spina Bifida camps weren’t nearly as common then, and “regular” camps presented all sorts of obstacles that, collectively, seemed insurmountable. For one thing, most of them were geared toward physical activities (hiking, sailing, or whatever) that I simply couldn’t do, at least not like the other kids and not without considerable assistance. But then there was another problem: incontinence. Being unable to control my bowel and bladder presented a huge risk of embarrassment that I simply wasn’t willing to take.
Fortunately, today’s kids with Spina Bifida have more options for camps geared toward people with physical disabilities. As importantly, bowel and bladder management techniques are more refined, and better equipment is available. That said, a camp setting – even a Spina Bifida camp – presents unique challenges in this area. Here’s how to cope.
Avoid Constipation or leakage
- Bowel accidents do happen, but may be avoided with good habits:
- Eat a healthy diet loaded with grants and a variety of fruits and vegetables;
- Drink plenty of fluids (mostly water), and avoid caffeine, alcohol and carbonated beverages because they irritate the bladder;
- Stick to your normal bowel care routine (medications, washouts, suppositories or enemas) before leaving for camp or a sleepover, and continue to do it as scheduled even if you’re not at home.
- Anal plugs approved by your healthcare provider may be temporarily helpful overnight or during swimming.
Before you leave home, pack your bag! You’ll need many things, including:
- Packaged disposable catheters (bring an extra bag just in case);
- Lubrication if the catheters aren’t pre-lubed;
- Wet wipes;
- Hand-held mirror, which can help girls with catheter insertion;
- Pads or disposable briefs;
- Hand soap;
- Plastic bags for disposing of soiled items;
- Clean cloths, especially underwear.
Take extra supplies and keep them readily available.
- Make sure you have enough space, locking doors, and sufficient lighting to allow for privacy and personal safety;
- Make sure the bathrooms you’ll be using are large enough for your needs and have accessible doorways, sinks, and safety rails if needed;
- Wash your hands before and after going to the bathroom;
- Perform bladder care first, then bowel care;
- Inspect your skin for redness and irritation;
- Practice at home so you’re prepared;
- If you will need assistance, let a friend or adult know before you arrive;
- Don’t allow a stranger or person you don’t trust to assist you with personal care, and report anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable.