U.S.—The waves of patients typically begin arriving in late June, and peak in July and August—thousands of panicked and traumatized Vacation Bible School volunteers who haven’t slept in a full week begin flooding into America’s hospitals. Overworked and outnumbered doctors, nurses, and hospital staff from California to Maine are reportedly clearing rooms and adding beds to receive the sizable influx of shell-shocked VBS workers.
According to one veteran nurse working in a Dallas hospital, the sights, sounds, and smells of the VBS workers returning from the front-lines are often too much to bear. “We lose a lot of interns and new doctors during the VBS fallout,” she says. “Just seeing one worker return with water balloon shrapnel permanently lodged in her limbs, or a VBS mascot who is indefinitely stuck in character, is enough to drive hospital staff out of the healthcare industry for good.”
“They’re coming,” says Elaine Cabrera, an anesthesiologist from Seattle. “The entire hospital staff is on call. These poor people need us.”
Dr. Raymond Wilson, a resident psychology expert at Harvard, says that PTSD from Vacation Bible School is a common phenomenon, and the nation is going to have to wake up to fight the crisis together. “We cheer on VBS volunteers as they go off to war. We appreciate them. But when they return injured and mentally broken after enthusiastically hyping up children and taking shots of espresso intravenously for a week, we ignore them and fail to get them the help they deserve.”
While the specific injuries and level of trauma vary widely, the most common signs of VBSPTSD include being unable to stop humming the VBS theme song, having various adhesives, glitter, and other decorations stuck in one’s hair or clothes, a “permasmile” combined with a “thousand yard stare,” and an acute desire to continue serving in children’s ministry.