She knows that saving lives is not enough. Once young patients left the hospital, they were thrust into an oftentimes cruel world, where they were called such names as Crispy Critter or Kentucky Fried. About 30% of children treated at the burn unit are victims of abuse or gross neglect. Their lives were not that easy even before they were injured.
Secondly, Doctor believes in the magic of the mountains. She has been among them all her life and knows they offer their own healing qualities.
Doctor's specialty as a social worker is helping people through loss and bereavement. She is, above all, a healer, unafraid of her own vulnerability.
When she founded the burn camp in 1983, there was nothing similar to serve as a model. (One North Carolina program brought children with burn injuries together for a weekend retreat.)
Since then, burn camps have started all over the country, including three in California. That was her vision.
"The camp experience has absolutely been the most rewarding thing I've ever done," she says.
The weeklong camp, just outside Estes Park, Colo., typically is limited to 50 participants, ages 8-18, most of whom receive sponsorships to cover the $375 fee, but Doctor allowed more than 60 to attend this year. "How can I say no to them?" she asks.
At 58, Doctor finds herself at a personal crossroad. Two years ago, her husband died of a heart attack. Last November, she was a victim of cutbacks at Children's Hospital. She lost a job that was more like a calling.
"Life isn't without trauma, and the real test is what you do with that trauma, the crisis," she says. "That's what we're trying to help the kids with, and that's what I have to do."
Camp staffers come from all walks of life. A real estate agent specializes in horseback riding and paid the camp fee of one child who was unable to find sponsorship.
Four Denver firefighters run youngsters around on an old firetruck and also serve as counselors. Jerry Dunn has served 24 years with the Denver Fire Department. He was 19 when he fought his first fire.
It was in his old neighborhood. Three children died. As a rookie, he was instructed to stay close to his captain. They walked inside the house, and he watched as the captain picked up the body of a child.
"I thought it was a doll," Dunn says. "When I found out it was a child, I almost quit."
Jarecke, the nurse clinician, visits former patients at their homes. Some people tell her she shouldn't get so close to patients, but she says she can't help it. To see them heal, to know them as people rather than patients, to be here in the mountains for a week refills her soul.
"It's so hard," she says. "A lot of people would still say we're wrong to save their lives when their lives are going to be like that, and I don't believe it. Teague and every kid here, you can use words like \o7 brave \f7 and \o7 incredible \f7 and \o7 strong, \f7 and they're all of that, but there's a lot more to it than that. Most of them seem to be charged with that desire to live."
Teague cannot remember the pain he endured. That part of his memory is hazy, except for pleasant fogdogs: getting a Nintendo in his hospital room, being told by a doctor that he could eat and drink whatever he wanted.
But those who saw him fighting for life can remember his pain. They can still hear his screams, smell the infection eating away at his body. They can see the miracle that Teague cannot.
As they approach timber line, Teague is exhausted. The sky is still mostly blue. "Yep," he says, "it's going to rain." He hyperbolizes a rain gambol to beckon the clouds.
When you have encountered all the obstacles he has in his life, perhaps you begin to expect such encroachments on even the brightest of days.
They are almost to the top when the others arrive on their way back down the mountain. They take a break to dine on tortillas, cheese and salsa, or bagels with peanut butter and jelly, kickshaws to their enormous appetites.
Teague takes his fill, then stretches out on the ground. He makes no mention that with his prosthesis, going uphill is easier than going down.
The hike back is filled with conversation. It eases the pain. Manley knows that if she can keep Teague talking, it will take his mind off the fatigue. Teague gives his account of the movie "Braveheart." He explains to her how CDs are made, how lightning works, how there must be life on other planets.
Midway down, it begins to rain.
"Yes!" Teague shouts, his face toward the sky. The others put on rain gear, but Teague is content in T-shirt and jeans. He keeps walking. His hand is tired from leaning on the cane, which has worn through its rubber tip and been taped together.
They laugh and sing their way off the mountain, beating darkness to the van.
A short distance down the road, a double rainbow, intersected by a third, appears, and everyone climbs out of the van. They are tired and hungry. The cooks at camp have stayed late, keeping dinner warm for their arrival. It is after 7 p.m.