Empathy, Connection Fundamental to Volunteer’s Life Work

For Erin Turner, Understanding Comes from Her Own Experiences

Erin Turner

Northside Hospital — Cherokee

Erin Turner knows what it’s like to grow up with diabetes. First diagnosed at six years old, Turner has taken her lifelong experience with the disease and channeled into helping others. Since 2008, Turner has donated more than 1,400 hours to Camp Kudzu, a camp for children with type 1 diabetes. This same camp gave a young Turner the strength, knowledge and skills she needed to survive.

“Once I graduated from nursing school, I realized what better way to give back to them for everything they did for me. They helped educate me and gave me the support system growing up. Now I have the opportunity to give back and do that for other children.”

As a camp clinician, she oversees as many as 18 children at a time and treats their diabetes for them. This allows the kids the opportunity to let loose and be themselves. This also gives Turner the chance to pass on skills essential to living life with diabetes. For example, during a day camp session last summer she taught three five-year-old children how to give themselves insulin injections.

One of the most rewarding aspects of volunteering at Camp Kudzu, she says, is the relationships she makes. She’s worked with some of the girl campers for nearly half a decade. Turner shares her phone number freely with the girls, who often call or text throughout the school year with problems or questions they’re facing.

When she’s not at Camp Kudzu, Turner offers service throughout the world. As a clinical missionary through her church, Turner participates in medical mission trips to Zambia, Israel and communities around the Sea of Galilee.

On the importance of a camp like Camp Kudzu:

“The skills we’re teaching these kids are skills they’re going to use for the rest of their lives. We show them they’re not alone. Depression is a huge part of diabetes; they go hand in hand. It’s a 24/7, 7 days-a-week condition, and you’re trying to keep yourself alive. Having Camp Kudzu lets them know what’s possible. They see people who’ve achieved great success and that diabetes hasn’t held them back. It’s a great motivation for them.”

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