When was the first time you used the line: “I’m a doctor”? Some people brandish it around too much, and some say it before they are. Some don’t say it at all. Other than to friends and family, and with the exception of booking some train tickets under ‘Dr’ the day after results were out (the excitement got the better of me), the first time I properly said it was earlier this week.
The last week I’ve once again had the delight of being at an Over The Wall camp; this time the Scotland Serious Illness camp for the year. My role for this camp was to record a taste of camp on film, and capture memories for campers, their families and the volunteers alike. As the camp recorder, most people who don’t know me presume I’m a photographer (which is nice as they don’t usually once they’ve seen my shots!). Also, as I don’t have a direct role in looking after the campers, I’m often free to be as whacky and over the top as I like.
Although not officially part of any one team of campers, I was ‘adopted’ by the Purple Boys team (11-13 year olds) and completely made to feel like one of the family. It was a great group of boys, but the eldest one was the natural leader of the gang and the other boys looked up to him. He was funny, clever and, as all kids are to some degree, completely bonkers. On many, many occasions he made me laugh until I thought I would wet myself with his bizarre jokes and one-liners. The week was full of such laughs, all the while the kids were achieving amazing things and coming out of their shells to work together and make new friends. The week was packed full of nonstop achievement all round, which I can’t possibly begin to describe. The film I shot of the week will be shared soon and will hopefully give a glimpse of our week.
Anyway, on the final night, after a closing award ceremony where a photo slideshow and the film shot during the week were shown as a reflective tool to remind everyone how far they’d come, each team does a ‘final cabin chat’ (a variant on the reflective chat had by each team every night to think about the day just gone). We ask the campers and volunteers alike to talk about their thorn of the day, and then their roses of the day and week. We have other questions for everyone designed to encourage reflective thinking (such as ‘if you had a swimming pool, what would you fill it with?’, to which one camper answered ‘all of you guys’). We also ask about the campers achievements of the week. One boy said he’s leaned how to overcome his fears, and can now doesn’t need to worry about future fears either. The eldest boy forgot to mention his achievements, and when prompted ‘what about your achievements of the week?’, he immediately answered ‘well they’re uncountable’.
To finish off the final cabin chat, we got the campers and volunteers to privately write down any fears or worries from their life, or anything that they’d rather forget about, then burnt the folded up pieces of paper over a fire. We did it again but this time with hopes and wishes. They were also free to share the positive ones. The eldest boy turned to the team doctor and I am showed us his piece of paper. It read: ‘I want to be a doctor just like Doctor Sarah’. Dr Sarah, a first time doctor for camp, who was utterly wonderful, said ‘Well I think you’d make a fantastic doctor!’. The camper replied ‘well, it’s what I want more than anything, but I don’t think I can be a doctor. I think I’m a bit too weird.’ Dr Sarah looked a me, and I leant over to the camper and quietly said: ‘you know, I’m a doctor too.’ He looked at me, scrunched up his face in a moment of disbelief, then his eyes lit up and he simply said: ‘oh, well that’s alright then!’. He’ll make a fantastic doctor (he’s certainly met enough of them during his illness!). Suddenly, the slog of medical school all seemed worth it.