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New Heights of Courage

Poems by Teens from the Youth Transplant Kamp 2002
Photos by Brad Nelson

Scaling 25-foot poles on the ropes course at Camp Kostopolus wasn't the only challenge at last summer's Youth Transplant Kamp, YTK 2002. Twenty teenagers who've had biopsies, surgeries, transplants, and transfusions were encouraged to try out a part of their bodies that, for many, has been ignored: their voice. During daily poetry workshops, they wrote about their experiences inside and outside hospitals, described by one 12-year-old girl as "miracle-like."

Most teens at the camp, sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation of Utah, are patients at University of Utah Hospital and Primary Children's Medical Center. The poetry workshop was sponsored by the Utah Arts Council, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, and was taught by Susan Sample, editor of Health Sciences Report.

    I'm sitting
    in my Mustang GT 500.
    I pull up to the line
    and rev my engine.
    I smell the gas.
    I take off.
    I get going faster
    and pull ahead.
    The rpm's start to red line.
    I hit the nose
    and push back in the seat.
    Then I look down at the speed
    and I see that I busted the cable.
    I win the race.

    Dennis Brewer, 19, kidney transplant, Ogden, UT

    I can hear
    my heart beating as I enter the room,
    not knowing if I will ever wake up
    or live, as they move me to the OR table.
    Then they strap me down.
    They put a mask on me.
    I smell the gas enter the mask.
    I taste the plastic of the mask.
    I start to spasm.

    When I wake up,
    I see my father, knowing
    I lived.
    I'm real glad to see him.

    Marcus Brennan, 15, kidney transplant, Midland, TX

    The most amazing
    thing I saw at camp
    was how happy people are,
    even when they go through hard times
    and life sucks.
    They still enjoy it.

    Wes Hill, 16, heart transplant, Salt Lake City, UT

    I love to taste new stuff like elk liver.
    It kind of has a rough taste to it.
    It's tough to tear with your teeth.
    Onions, carrots, green pepper go good with it.
    It's so good I feel stuffed after.

    JD Roberts, 16, kidney transplant, Provo, UT

    I remember
    my first liver biopsy.
    I was so scared.
    I was kind of shaky,
    my whole body was.
    I didn't know what to do.
    I was sitting on the hospital bed.
    It was uncomfortable,
    that stupid mattress.

    My nurses were so cool after.
    When my parents left,
    and my nurses,
    I moved my bed around.
    I put it in a different spot,
    kind of sideways.
    And then my nurse came in.
    She got mad at me.
    But it did not bother me.

    Sarah Ogden, 17, liver transplant, Salem, UT

    A doctor was the dream
    when I was little,
    because they made good money
    and they saved lives.
    Now that I have had my one and a half years' experience
    of doctors, nurses and needles,
    I never want to see doctors again.

    Doctors and nurses have done too many evil
    unkind procedures that scarred me for life.
    All they were doing
    was trying to save my life,
    even though it hurt me.

    Sometimes the doctors and nurses
    were very caring and chose to do
    a different procedure
    that was less painful.

    Nicole Wardell, 14, kidney transplant, Cody, WY

    The most
    amazing thing at camp
    is seeing all the people
    who have to take pills.
    Some of the pills are small
    and some are really big.
    The pills really stink,
    but we have to take them
    so we can live.

    Lacy Hyde, 13, kidney transplant, Burley, ID

    While I'm driving
    in my '98 taupe Ford Escort car,
    I'm listening to the radio.
    I am sick of listening to the commercial,
    so I change the station
    when I hear this song.

    I'm stopped at a red light.
    I turn up the volume.
    I hear the latest hip-hop song.
    I notice the lyrics.
    I listen to the song when I realize
    that I live in a bubble.
    They talk about gangs, drugs, sex, abuse, violence
    and other bad things.
    I feel scared.

    Jennifer Jensen, 17, liver transplant, Layton, UT

    I haven't seen sharks in the pond.
    I bet they would meow.
    They might have legs and arms.
    They would definitely be purple,
    no total doubt.
    They would eat cotton candy,
    only strawberry.
    I know this could never happen,
    but it's sweet to dream.

    Brea Poole, 12, liver transplant, Pocatello, ID

    If I was sixteen
    and had a stroke again,
    I'd have five things to remember.
    First, I'd have to try and remember friends
    and family names.
    Mother. Father. Brother. Friend.
    I had a hard time thinking of things.
    Things such as people, family, food
    or even other things.

    Then I had to learn to read.
    A lot of years later, I'm still going strong.

    Last, I had to take a lot of pills
    And my mother still has to take me places,
    because I cannot drive.

    It is hard.

    Amber Weaver, 18, kidney transplant, La Verkin, UT

    I met a lovely girl
    in the candy store.
    "I can't help notice
    your beautiful mohawk
    with pink and green,
    and your leather jacket
    with its misfit?."

    Austin Chirillo, 12, kidney transplant, Salt Lake City, UT

    I was in the hospital
    for the first three years of my life.
    I had to endure double hernia surgery.
    I was born with spina bifida and scoliosis.
    I don't remember anything,
    so I rely on stories told to me by my mom.

    Mike Aaron, 17, kidney transplant, South Jordan, UT

    As I walk into the hospital,
    I get this eerie
    but yet warm sensation.
    In the morning, it's cold and quiet.

    The nurse calls me into same-day surgery.
    A tingle spreads throughout my body
    as I enter the room.
    It's like a wave of ice cold water hit me,
    or a thousand ghosts just passed by.

    They put me on the bed.
    It's hot, like it came shooting
    top speed into the sky from a volcano.
    But the pillow is even hotter.

    I'm no longer cold.
    That fluffy white pillow is like a cloud in heaven.
    This is one of the very few things
    I like about the hospital.

    Clark Jackson, 12, heart transplant, Sandy, UT

    The most
    amazing thing I've seen
    is people's scars.
    Some look thin,
    some feel hard.
    The cool thing is
    you can tell what transplant
    people have had
    by the shape:
    kidneys go like J's.
    Livers look like an upside-down Y.
    Hearts are just up and down.
    Some, like mine, are an inch wide.
    Mine doesn't look like any one else's.
    It's a double.

    Dana Prevedel, 13, liver and small bowel transplant, Roosevelt, UT

We always welcome your comments about the magazine. Address letters to: Editor, Health Sciences Report, Office of Public Affairs, University of Utah Health Sciences Center, 50 North Medical Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84132. FAX: (801) 585-5188. E-mail: Susan.Sample@hsc.utah.edu.

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