After a long day of traveling across the country, we were greeted by smiling, familiar faces in the Portland, Oregon airport. Our friends (old and new), dressed in “Y’ALL YETI FOR THIS?” t-shirts, set the tone for an exciting weekend! YETI is an experiential train-the-trainer conference, hosted by Pacific Northwest Bleeding Disorders, held for teens and adults who run teen programs in their local bleeding disorders community. YETI is an acronym for Youth Effectively Transitioning to Independence and the program promotes confidence and supports teens in the bleeding disorders community. Teen programming teams attend the conference together. Ideally, the teams consist of a bleeding disorders Chapter representative, a Treatment Center representative, and a teen who is active in teen programs. Our team consisted of our Teen Group Coordinators: Ethan W. (teen), Katherine Bush, LCSW (Hemophilia Center of Western PA), and Janet Barone, Program Director (WPBDF). The event began on Thursday, February 22 and ended on Sunday, February 25, 2024.

The teens and adults were in separate programs for a good amount of the time, but they came together on Saturday to go on a day trip the teens planned and again on Sunday to work in their local teams to discuss ideas gained from the experience and make plans for future events.

Ethan W., one of WPBDF’s Teen Group Co-Coordinators wrote the following detailed report about his experience.

YETI 2024

By Ethan W.

Yeti is an event where they teach people from the bleeding disorder chapters ways they can improve their Chapter and allow teens and young adults to learn about their bleeding disorders and others while still having a fun camping experience. Although I had flown before, I was about eight and it was for a different event where I got to practice playing baseball with others with hemophilia and bleeding disorders, like me, in Arizona.

Our first take off from Pittsburgh to Minnesota was a little scary for me. The last time I’ve felt g-force like that was going down the Black Hole water slide in Erie’s Splash Lagoon. The flight was two-and-a-half hours and was a little crowded. I spent most of the flight getting used to air travel again. Once we landed the flying microwave of an airplane, we found out it isn’t always snowing in Minnesota; in fact, they too have their summer days in winter. After exploring the airport, we decided to eat at Smashburger. After we ate, we explored the gift shops and grabbed snacks and drinks. I also ended up getting the new Percy Jackson book, which I was really excited about, and a few other things. We boarded the next plane which felt like first class, or the closest I’ll ever get to it. Instead of two seats on each side there were three and in plane math that somehow equals a bit more space. And the best part was there were video screens on the back of the chairs that had almost every single movie for free. It also had a flight tracker which I found more appealing; I don’t know why. I spent most of this three-and-a-half-hour trip reading The Heroes of Olympus: The House of Hades, which is a sequel to the Percy Jackson series. When we landed it was WAY past my bedtime, but only like eight o’clock over in Oregon. We met up with some staff and other members of YETI to board a bus to take us to Camp Collins. This is where we met Nikole who is an old friend of mine and she had way too much energy for being up all day. Her presence helped me get out of my shell a little bit and gave me the feeling that it was going to be a fun four days.

Our bus turned out to be the last bus, so we ended up joining a little late, but in time for the last activity. I was a little happy though because even though camp beds usually suck, I was ready for mine. For the activity, we had to put important dates of things that happened in the bleeding disorder community in the correct order on a timeline. My chapter people, Janet and Kit, excelled at it from the 1980’s up. After that they gave us stuff to make our beds and we headed up to the cabins, and these weren’t any normal cabins. They were Hobbit houses with like a 5-foot round door and a normal door on the side. Instead of normal singular beds, there were wooden shelves with your typical camp bed on it and shelves to put your belongings at. I personally set my stuff up and made my bed then hit the hay. Now I don’t know if it was jet lag or just me being tired, but I was one of the few who had the best sleep down there I have ever gotten.

I got ready for the day and then headed up to the cafeteria. I guess they were still preparing breakfast, so a bunch of people started going down a trail and boy am I glad I followed. The trail led to a beautiful beach with a river going through it and a little waterfall. And for a person who’s always been surrounded by rivers, I was starstruck. The morning atmosphere, the fog, and the tranquility of the waterfall was enough to make me wanna live there. I also got some foreshadow of the trip to come.

After breakfast we went into a little side room off the cafeteria where we learned about the HIV crisis in the early 1980’s for about 3 hours. This was completely new to me, and I had no idea that it happened till that day. Although it was shocking to hear about it, sitting and listening to the same thing for 3 hours isn’t exactly my strong suit. The Basics of the meeting was learning about how the bleeding disorder community grew in the matter of a few decades. Back in those times, prophylaxis doses didn’t exist, and you only took medicine on demand. A lot of people thought we would bleed out from paper cuts and minor stuff like that, so we were very protected.  When patients received blood or certain clotting factor products made from human plasma, many bleeding disorder patients would get infected with HIV. This was the main way of treating a patient; therefore, HIV spread in the community like wildfire. Although this was a very tragic moment in history, it crucially helped the next generation of bleeding disorder patients. It led to the development of safer products to help bleeding disorder patients live a normal life. They also talked about how to this day women struggle to get diagnosed with bleeding disorders.

Next, we ate lunch then we went to the building we checked into the night before and went into what they called the snack room, where I found out it was filled with snacks free for the taking. From here on is where my shy shell begins to crack. In the snack room, we planned a surprise get away event for the Chapter people. They split us into two groups and the adults went to the ropes course and the campers, planned a field trip for everyone. There were 4 or 5 locations we could choose from and the idea was to pick one. But as young people do, we broke the rules. The plan was we would go to lunch and then go to our destination with a three-hundred-dollar budget and have fun. We also had to plan out why the event would be beneficial to the community and what knowledge we would gain from it. This allowed us to walk in the footsteps of our chapter workers and appreciate what they do for us. We split into mainly two groups. Group 1 being Multnomah Falls, which is a 620-foot waterfall and one of the biggest tourist attractions in Oregon (I can’t stress enough when I say it’s a humbling and beautiful experience.) and group 2 focused on Oxbow park which is a National park. The plan for Multnomah falls was to do a scavenger hunt on the trails and explore the gift shop, maybe playing hide and seek. For Oxbow, we planned river walking, hiking, and playing kickball or wiffle ball. After 2 hours of debating, we decided to try to cram both vacation spots into one day. Then it was our turn to go to the ropes course.

I was a little against doing the ropes course but that all changed when they forced everyone in the ropes equipment. My supervisor, John, who was also a big part of me breaking my shell, teamed up with me and someone else whose name I didn’t get. We did about 4 sections that were bridge based, that became less stable with each one, the last one being two type rope lines. After that I called it quits and walked across a log bridge before connecting back to land. I helped my group finish a little scavenger hunt thing we had to do, and then we had dinner. After dinner, we had a follow up meeting on the trip for the next day, and it was confirmed we could do both places. With this information we split into groups. Scavenger hunt planners, picnic areas, trails, and figuring out what equipment we needed or needed to buy within the budget.

Then they had a talent show. Sadly, I was still under the effects of jet lag but so were others in my cabin and we were allowed to go back to the cabin. This is where I was able to make new friends and find out a little bit more about other people’s chapters and how they differentiate from mine. When we were done communicating, we headed to the shower house then came back a lil before the talent show ended.

The next day after breakfast we talked about how medication in the bleeding disorder community grew and improved over the years. Thankfully it was only 30 minutes, but I learned a few things like a little more about how prophy doses weren’t always a thing and the struggles of women getting treated for a bleeding disorder. I also learned how common bleeding disorders really are, but they are just not diagnosed until something big happens in a person’s life. I also learned more about how other people’s chapters aren’t as advanced or don’t have the same things mine does, which made me realize how truly thankful I am for the position and location I’m in.

After this we went over the plan for the trip. First, we went to Troutdale Station,which had 20 food carts, beer, and cider. You could probably last a lifetime there and never order the same thing twice. My friend group decided to settle down at a Mexican spot and then got donuts for dessert. Before we entered the bus, Big Dog (Patrick Torrey), told us Oxbow wasn’t an option anymore, but he found a park that was closer to Multnomah Falls where we could do the same things. Then we went to Multnomah Falls. The bus ride alone was a beautiful sight. We walked zero point two miles up to the bridge which gets you over the bottom second water fall of the falls. On our way up was a stream that was covered but hollowed out the snow. The bridge was such an amazing sight, I could only imagine what the peak of the waterfall looks like. After taking tons of pictures and videos, we headed back down to the bus. When we arrived at the park, my friend group pretty much abandoned the rest of the scavenger hunt and set up the kick ball field and played that the rest of the day.

We went back for dinner and after that we had a little going away party where we celebrated the knowledge and friendships we made the past couple days. I really liked this going away ceremony, cause even though it was supposed to be empathetic they didn’t make it feel like a funeral although it was probably setting one up. They passed out biodegradable paper that’s suppose to break apart fast in the water and every single boy besides Garrett took a nibble out of the corner of the paper. Someone took a whole bite out of the paper. Then we wrote what our dreams were on the paper then morphed them into something to send down the river. The paper airplane was a pretty popular choice and since everyone got to the beach at different times, with the instructors group being last somehow, we didn’t really send our dream off properly. Then after she explained why we did what we did, we lined up in a conga line and walked to an area where we circled up and did a couple activities–we tried to guess a piece of paper in the dark and made lighting in our mouths with mints. Lastly, we asked what we gained through our experience at camp. Personally, I gained the urge to be more adventurous and a whole lot of jet jag. Then we went back to the check-in building where we made friendship bracelets with really bad knots, but it was still a cool experience. There was another activity, but again jet lag hit us like a truck and we were able to go back to the cabins to wash up and go to bed for the final time.

The last breakfast, unlike most camps, had me wanting to stay for another four days with the French toast rivaling mine and mine’s the best I’ve ever and will ever taste. Then we went to the check-in building to check out. We took a group photo and then Big Dog told us more about the camp’s tradition with the friendship bracelets and about the going away ceremonies, which so far, me and my partner text each other “your the best” three times here and there. Then I met up with my chapter people and we talked about how we could improve what I felt was truly a perfect chapter compared to what the others had and I wish others had the same thing Western PA does.

Then my group got split up by the busses as we said our final goodbyes, then we texted each other for two days straight. The flights back were more settling, probably because I was tired, but they were the same flights we took flying in just backwards. YETI was a very life changing trip for me and I would do it over and over again until YETI or me are no longer existing. I’m so thankful that Iwas able to do the experience with my chapter.