By Sarah Chacko
Killeen Daily Herald
YOUNGSPORT Growth was the goal for a group of kids who spent this week at Peaceable Kingdom Childrens Retreat.
More than 20 children diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency, along with their siblings, spent the week focusing not on their physical growth challenges but on their new social and emotional growth experiences.
Sponsored by the Pediatric Endocrinology and Child Life departments at Scott & White Childrens Hospital in Temple, Camp B.I.G. (Boost In Growth) started as a day camp two years ago as a way not only to allow the kids to meet other people their age facing the same challenges, but also to integrate families into the process.
The camp is here to provide normal activities for children with medical disorders, said Child Life Specialist and Camp Director Deanna Warren.
This year is the first year the hospital has hosted a weeklong camp, and for some, this is the first time they have been away from home for so long.
All the activities are designed to fit everyones abilities. Unlike an amusement park, no one is too short to get on the rides here.
Theres nothing you cant do, Warren said. Thats what we want them to see.
Tyler Lumpkins of Copperas Cove said he enjoyed spending time with people like him who had a problem ... but not a problem.
You know that nobodys going to make fun of you or anything, he said.
Lumpkins, 14, said nobody really notices that he is shorter than the rest of the people in his class.
Warren and doctors at Scott & White are hoping that by the time hes an adult, it wont be a second thought.
Dr. Don Wilson with Pediatric Endocrinology said the condition can become a handicap, not just an aesthetic problem. Stunted growth can limit what a person can do in terms of employment, social interactions and mobility. Wilson said significant improvement can be seen in older children, but the older they are the less time there is for treatment.
The youths take injections every night before they go to sleep, when the growth hormone is typically active, as a supplement. Some of the children are completely deficient, while others lack just enough to prohibit normal growth.
Warren said aggressive treatment is important at the first indication of a growth deficiency because growth stops after puberty. The problem can be spotted when a child first falls off the growth curve.
The hormone that the youngsters inject is an effort to catch them back up to their genetic growth potential.
Despite the common bond they share, the kids are consumed with fun activities and dont spend a lot of time focusing on their challenge. The camps theme this year, Unplugged, revolves around that idea.
Half of the theme is a play on the music term. One of their biggest projects this week has been making music videos, which will be premiered at a red-carpet show for awards they made themselves.
The other half is getting them unplugged from their fears and challenges, Warren said.
Brady Bynum of Rockwall said he never thought of himself as different, but he had never met anyone with a similar condition until this week.
Brady, 9, said the daily shots dont bother him. Instead, they give him hope when he visits his doctor and checks his height.
I think every time I go, Im going to get taller, he said.
Bradys brother, Dalton, said he didnt think Brady was all that different from other kids, and then he learned that his brother would never grow taller than 6 feet.
Already tall for his age, Dalton, 12, said he enjoyed interacting with new people. Short or tall, people are just different.
You dont know at school if other people take shots, either, he said.
Wilson said one of the camps main goals is to get kids comfortable with the shot process. Lumpkins let one of the campers who will be starting treatments soon watch as he took his shots this week.
No matter if were successful with the growth hormone or not, we want to make them feel better about themselves, Wilson said. If weve done that, then weve done a lot.
Contact Sarah Chacko at firstname.lastname@example.org