Alumnus gives young heart patients unforgettable summer

Nursing alumnus Tom Bachtler ‘08 (far right) with Camp Del Corazon counselors.

November 11, 2010

Bradley alumnus Tom Bachtler always knew his work with heart patients was important business, but he has an even greater appreciation for his career after spending a week at summer camp.

Bachtler, a resident nurse at the UCLA Cardiothoracic Unit and 2008 Bradley University graduate, was a volunteer nurse counselor at Camp Del Corazon on Catalina Island, where young heart patients enjoy summertime activities despite their health conditions. He worked with about 100 children ages 7-17 with various heart troubles.

It was an emergency room experience during his own youth that pointed Bachtler in the direction of nursing. After a tree branch hit him in the head, he had a brief hospital stay and spoke with doctors about his plans to attend Bradley. He was undecided on a major at the time, but his unfortunate injury ultimately helped turn him toward the healthcare field.

He praises his professors at Bradley, particularly Janet Jackson, for training him well in his classes and for teaching him the importance of human interaction in nursing.

As a nursing student, he had a natural inclination toward helping people, and he volunteered at flu clinics and took part in other service opportunities. This spirit of giving served him well at Camp Del Corazon.

The children spent five days and nights together and stayed in cabins that housed around eight children each. Bachtler was one of some 80 volunteers who helped the children participate in activities such as swimming, kayaking, and playing sports.

The children come mostly from the Los Angeles area, but the camp is beginning to draw participants from all over the country. Before attending, the children are screened and cleared to participate at a certain level of physical activity, and the fun and games are closely monitored to prevent emergencies.

The camp is staffed entirely by volunteers and is free to every child that attends. Financial support comes from community and donor support and a gala fundraiser held each year.

Bachtler called the friendly interactions between the children “remarkable.” Campers supported and encouraged each other, helping one another through bouts of homesickness. The children felt a kinship from their similar experiences, and they often shared stories of their personal health challenges.

Bachtler usually works with adults, but quickly adjusted to the different challenges of working with children. He says the children’s nightly reflections helped him to analyze himself and his own life, and he found the work very fulfilling.

“Seeing kids laughing and having a great time was extremely rewarding to me,” he said.

More information on Camp Del Corazon can be found at www.campdelcorazon.org.