Thirteen years ago, the pediatric surgery team at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, developed a different type of summer camp.
Fast forward to 2020 and this camp, now called the Colorectal Health Institute for Pediatrics (CHIP) Camp, has come a long way. Though other top-tier children’s hospitals offer similar bowel management “boot camps”, Lurie Children’s camp is unique as it combines the expertise of the colorectal surgery team with that of the gastroenterology (GI) motility team to deliver comprehensive, interdisciplinary treatment for children with severe cases of fecal incontinence and chronic constipation.
The annual referral-based camp, which was recently held in July, takes an individualized approach to the children’s medical conditions. Treatment plans are developed to fit the child’s personal goals and lifestyle, whether the goal is to play at recess without worry, join a sports team, attend a sleepover, or even head to college. The CHIP team creates treatment plans to help each child improve their quality of life.
Patients who attend camp include those with Hirschsprung disease, anorectal malformations, spinal anomalies, motility disorders and severe idiopathic constipation.
“These conditions require a unique approach,” said Alison Osborne, APRN-NP, CWON, and camp director. “Our team understands the challenges the children face, and our goal through this week-long program, is to optimize each child’s quality of life.”
The camp staff includes Dr. Julia Grabowski, a pediatric surgeon and Dr. John Fortunato, a gastroenterologist, as well as a team of nurse practitioners, a specialized nurse, a dietitian, a social worker and interpreters. Having a group with diverse areas of expertise review each child’s unique situation allows for a complete evaluation of the many ways these conditions affect a child’s life.
“We all work very closely during the week,” said Alison. ”Seeing the kids succeed at the end makes the concentrated effort all worthwhile.”
CHIP Camp provides participants with educational sessions, daily clinical evaluations with abdominal x-rays, nutritional support, and personal counseling. The education is empowering to both the parents and children attending. During the down time, the parents and children socialize with one another and are able to form a genuine support system. The children are able to meet other kids with similar conditions and the bonds they build help to increase their confidence.
The camp goes beyond providing medical care and looks to improve the children’s social, emotional, and psychosocial states. The goal of CHIP Camp is for all patients to participate in social activities while having the confidence of being accident free.
During the week, children are encouraged to fill out a journal designed to help them open up and share what positive and negative moments they have been experiencing. Getting the kids talking about their health conditions and goals allows the team to better understand the patient’s motivations, frustrations, and limitations.
Patient care extends after the program, including scheduled follow-ups through the Colorectal Center’s Continuity Clinic and CHIP clinic at Lurie Children’s. These visits are designed to maintain ongoing success.
CHIP Camp is an extension of the care and expertise provided through Lurie Children’s Colorectal Center and the Colorectal Health Institute for Pediatrics (CHIP) Program. Children come from all over the country for the camp and related year-round programs, and relationships built through these programs continue for many years, so each patient’s life can remain as easy and manageable as possible for years to come.
Children who are seeing providers through the ongoing Colorectal Clinic or the Colorectal Institute for Pediatrics (CHIP) program, can be referred to the CHIP Camp.
To refer a patient to either the Colorectal Clinic or the Colorectal Institute for Pediatrics (CHIP) program, please call 1.800.KIDS DOC (1.800.543.7362)