October 24, 2021

Camp encourages youths to consider health careers

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

From left, flight nurse Emily Sweatman demonstrates specialized Mercy Flight lifesaving techniques to Margaret Starr, 13, of Cortland, and Dorothy Hamilton, 13, of Ithaca, on Friday during Cortland Regional Medical Center’s MASH Camp.

Young teens and pre-teens wearing green hospital scrubs gathered in a field across the street from the Cortland Regional Medical Center watching a helicopter land. It was a helicopter used to fly people with medical emergencies to hospitals across Central New York.

Tim DePaull, of Mercy Flight Central, talked to the youths about what goes into being a first responder, both on and off the ground. And what does it take? The ability to deal with stress and cope with trauma — both physical and emotional, said Jarrod Kolodziejczyk, the director of the volunteer office for the hospital.

It was the highlight of the day Friday at the hospital’s 15th annual Medical Academy of Science and Health, or MASH, camp.

Over the course of the two-day summer camp, 21 students learned about the departments of the hospital. The Mercy Flight helicopter appeared at the 2014 and 2016 camps.

Nurse Joe Wlotkowski and paramedic Emily Sweatman explained to three kids at a time the equipment inside the helicopter and how it transports people.

“It can go from Marcellus to Cortland in 15 minutes,” Wlotkowski said. Once the tour of the helicopter was finished, the campers got a look at the hospital’s emergency and operating rooms.

In the physical rehabilitation department, the students got to experience the various conditions and the therapies associated with them. They wore goggles to blur their vision, simulating the affects of diabetes. Students were wrapped up in therabands to make their joints stiff, mimicking cerebral palsy. They worked with an 8-months pregnant nurse in the maternity ward.
“The students here are the patients,” Kolodziejczyk said.

Natalie Day, 12 of McLean, was interested because she is a fan of the television series “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“I liked learning about the past and present, what they (nurses) used to do back then,” Day said. The presentation DePaull gave compared a modern bed with medical equipment next to it with an old photo of a bed with no equipment near it, just nurses.

Jayda Calmer, 13, of Dryden, wanted to come because her mother is a nurse and heard her stories of what it is like to work in a hospital.

“I wanted to know what it is like to work in the medical field,” said Hallie Allport, 14, of Dryden. She attended with her twin brother, Jack, who was forced to come along.

“My dad wanted me to get exposed,” Jack said.

Kolodziejczyk said the camp also works as a feeder for the hospital’s teenage volunteer program. The hospital usually gets two to three new volunteers each camp. A few kids who participated in last year’s camp did return for this year’s.

“We usually get good feedback from the students,” Kolodziejczyk said.