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Ill. hospital organizes first responder camp for over 100 children

Morris Hospital’s Camp911 introduced children to careers in fire, EMS, law enforcement and emergency communications

By Michael Urbanec
Morris Daily Herald

MORRIS, Ill. — Camp911 made its return to Saratoga School for the first time since 2019 on Friday, giving more than 100 local kids the chance to learn about the work done by local first responders, how to stay safe and how to apply first aid.

Morris Hospital even had a helicopter fly in for kids to touch and see, complete with an explanation from flight nurse Liesl Esposito.

Esposito said becoming a flight nurse takes a lot of training, and she works a 24-hour shift from 6 a.m. to 6 a.m. the next day with a setup not too different from firefighters. She said the pilots are all safe and well-trained, and nurses get to know them very well. It’s actually a smoother ride in a helicopter than it would be an airplane.

Morris Hospital wellness manager Becca McKee organized the camp this year, gathering different emergency services from around the county, including school resource officers, drug dogs, 911 dispatchers, fire departments, ambulance services and nurses from the hospital.

Vanessa Read, Morgan Frye, Jared Darling and Adrian Fuchs, also from Morris Hospital, gave the kids a crash course on how to handle an emergency situation where someone is bleeding.

“We’re not talking about a paper cut or even a little cut,” Read said. “That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the big arteries in your body, your arms, in your belly, in your chest, in your legs, those big arteries: If they end up injured on those places, it’s like a hose. It pours or squirts blood.”

Read told the kids the first thing to do when someone is hemorrhaging blood is to call for help, then find where the blood is coming from. Then they’re to keep pressure on the wound until they can pack the wound.

“When we’re in the emergency department and people come in with trauma, we are shoving it in there,” Read said. “You want these holes filled up with gauze, right? These tiny little wounds seem small, but if you stick your finger in there, it’s the size of a bullet hole.”

Read demonstrated how hard and fast nurses have to move to pack a wound, and she admitted it will hurt but it’s important work to know how to do. Fuchs and Frye worked with the kids to put on tourniquets, advising them in a similar manner. The kids hopped to it, following the guide laid out for them on simulated body parts.

Other stations were less gory, but every bit as important. Darling showed the kids how to use a fire extinguisher on a simulated fire, and pharmacy workers explained how to properly store medication. Another station showed the kids basic first aid, and provided them with their own kits to take home. The Morris police were there with police dogs to show the kids how they work and share other safety tips, and the hospital had its therapy dog on site to explain how helpful these dogs can be.

McKee said it’s important for kids to see these things firsthand.

“I think even learning the safety aspects exposes them to career paths,” McKee said. “So, learning what’s out there and how everyone else in the community can help them, and show how they can assist in those processes.”

McKee said this year’s exciting because the hospital hasn’t been able to hold it since 2019, and they’re hoping with the Morris Hospital YMCA opening up, the event can run there next year.

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