Lake Elmo, Minnesota, United States
Medical Condition: Ventricular Tachycardia
Medical Therapy: Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)*
Sara was first diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat at 13, and received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) when she was 29 to protect her from cardiac arrest. Her love for kids and the outdoors inspired her to open Camp Odayin, a camp for kids with heart defects.
"At the age of 13 I started to have SVT (supra ventricular tachycardia) – a non-dangerous heart rhythm coming from the atrial chambers of the heart due to a heart defect. It's also when I had my first visit to a cardiologist.
"For years I was on and off different medications. Then, at 29, I started having a different rhythm, ventricular tachycardia. This one is serious. In January of 2000, when I was 30 years old, my cardiologist told me he was going to put in an ICD. Tears rolled down my cheeks as the nurse explained the procedure and what the device could do. I initially lived in fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of this foreign object under my skin connected to my heart. Fear of a shock. Could I continue my active lifestyle? Could we ever start a family?
"After meeting other people with ICDs and heart defects, I quickly came to realize the power of belonging. I had worked and attended many camps in my life and knew firsthand the magic of camp. Blending these two is how Camp Odayin was born…a camp for kids with heart disease.
"For most of our campers, Camp Odayin is the only chance they have to participate in a camp program, try new things, and be among other kids who understand the struggles and challenges they have faced in life.
"My life has been an emotional journey. But my initial questions have all been answered. As a result of my special heart, I met my wonderful husband and we have a beautiful daughter. I live a very full and active life, and have the amazing gift of being a part of my camper’s lives."
"You can be happy if you let yourself be. Each night at camp we close the day with everyone linked arm and arm in a big circle. The song we sing goes like this – 'Happiness runs in a circular motion. Love is like a little boat upon the sea. All of our hearts are deeper than you can see. You can be happy if you let yourself be.'
"We can't always choose the cards we’ve been dealt, but we can certainly choose how to play them!"
"Camp Odayin provides fun, safe and supportive camp experiences and community building opportunities for young people with heart disease and their families. In the summer of 2002, we welcomed 53 kids from 6 states during one week of camp. In 2013 we will serve more than 650 people through our Resident, Day, Family and Winter Camp programs from throughout the United States.
"The work is based on a holistic approach to healing hearts, coupled with a desire to nurture and develop independence, confidence, and acceptance throughout our camper's lives. There is power in instilling a sense of community among our heart family, and placing an emphasis on having fun and celebrating life."