Teen Camp & Supporting Teens to Prepare for Adulthood Living with CHD

As HeartKids' CEO I get the wonderful opportunity to meet hundreds of people, young and old, living with or impacted somehow by congenital heart disease.

This week I had the pleasure of spending a fair bit of time with 50 plus young people aged 13 - 18 you live with congenital or acquired heart disease.

HeartKids' Teen Camp is a huge logistical undertaking with many months of planning by our corporate and divisional offices. It takes a small army of volunteer health professionals, including two Cardiologists, eight Nurses, three Social Workers, two Teen Transition Workers, a Physiotherapist, four HeartKids staff and ten + student volunteers to stage this event. 

First and foremost thank you to each of them for donating their time and boundless energy. Like all young people teen heart kids sometimes test the boundaries but the Camp team, under the leadership of Holly Williams (QLD State Manager) and Rebecca Petters (Youth Engagement Worker), have done an outstanding job in caring for these remarkable young people.

HeartKids has a plan to focus on people living with CHD across the lifespan, their families and those health professionals that treat them. This also includes bereaved families and those directly impacted by the loss of a child.

HeartKids Teen Transition strategy is about equipping parents and young people with the skills and knowledge so all teenageeart kids are fully prepared for managing their own health into their early adult years. Too many young adults and adults have been lost to care in the past.

Teen Transition Education Days, Teen and Family Camps and the new Young Adult Mentor Project are all part of the plan to help adults with CHD now and into the future. As one parent remarked yesterday 'I thought Teen Camp wasn't what HeartKids should be doing, that was until my son grew up before my eyes and turned 14. Now he has started this part of his life we again need HeartKids in much the same way as the baby years; he is still my baby but now has different challenges'.

The needs of the all people living with CHD including adults are complex and the system has faults. That is why HeartKids is now facilitating the National Childhood Heart Disease Action Plan.

The young people I sat with this week in our first ever HeartKids Personal Development and Leadership Training Program were optimistic about their futures and grateful to their families for all the support they provided. They had remarkable self awareness and truly appreciated the worry, anxiety and concern their parents / guardians faced (most laughed they don't tell their parents this enough). Our first Young Mentors are terrific young people and I am proud to lead an organisation that has the foresight to invest in young people for the future.

My thanks to the Amway One to One Foundation, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank, Kiwanis and Harcourts and each family for funding the 2018 HeartKids Teen Camp. You really are changing lives and helping us Conquer Congenital Heart Disease.