They almost resembled sunbathers in chaise lounges on the deck of a cruise ship.

But they were donors, lots of them, lined up to participate in the first of two annual blood drives hosted by the Career Opportunities in Health program at Central Campus in collaboration with the LifeServe Blood Center.

Jenna Eppert directs this particular branch of the Career Ed Academy at Central, one that points students on a variety of vocational paths through a curriculum that integrates academic and workplace skills. Rotations at hospital and clinic locations provide experience that allows students to explore and learn about medicine while developing an understanding of the big picture of healthcare.

“It’s an everyday commitment,” said Eppert. “Three times a week students are at assigned five-week rotations in the community and twice a week we meet here in the classroom.”

Thirty-eight students are currently enrolled in Career Opportunities in Health.

In return for everything the program offers them, students reciprocate in one particularly germane way. Every year they coordinate the blood drives, the first of which for the 2017-18 school year was Tuesday.

“The blood drives have been happening here for 10 years now,” said Eppert, who’s been leading the COH program for 15. “My husband works at LifeServe and our daughters have been blood recipients so this tradition is a connection that’s both personal and professional for me.”

Riley Dean and Melanie Clay are Roosevelt seniors enrolled in COH who helped coordinate Tuesday’s drive. Both plan on healthcare careers. Riley’s focused on neurosurgery, Melanie anesthesiology. Their next field rotations are in the intensive care unit and respiratory therapy, respectively, at Iowa Methodist Hospital. Melanie’s last assignment was in ob-gyn and she cut an umbilical cord in the delivery room.

“Our rotations are mostly job-shadowing, but we also get some cool hands-on opportunities,” Melanie said.

On Tuesday they assigned fellow students to roles like runners who were dispatched to classrooms to escort donors to their appointments, clerks who helped donors with their paperwork and canteen attendants who dispensed post-donation pick-me-ups like juice and cookies.

Eva Rehan is a program alum who graduated from Hoover in 2013 and now works as a phlebotomist for LifeServe. As a student in the program, she was a donor. Now she’s on the other end of the needles and tubes.

“I definitely like the aspect of doing something that serves the community interest,” Eva said, “but I also enjoy the contact with the donors. I like listening to their stories about why they are volunteering.” The rapport she describes with her “customers” is not unlike the ones that bartenders, barbers and hairstylists develop with theirs. She even has her regulars.

“Yes, like in Indianola where they have an annual drive, it’s a small town so when we go there I’ll see the same folks and we recognize each other and catch up.”

LifeServe does a lot of work with DMPS. Besides the twice annually blood bonanzas at Central Campus, each of the district high schools hold drives and the bloodmobile makes stops at administrative office sites, too.

“I am helping with the National Honor Society blood drive at Roosevelt, too,” said Riley.

Some people faint at the sight of blood. Others can’t get, or give, enough of the stuff.

Incidentally, they held the drive in what’s matter-of-factly called the Multipurpose Room at Central Campus. Not too catchy, but it’s accurate. The school board meets there. And Thursday the Central Campus culinary arts students will be open for lunch business in the space as the Central Campus Café.

But Tuesday’s purpose was an especially good – and bloody – one.

UPDATE: Wednesday afternoon Eppert shared these final numbers she received back from LifeServe.

–          87 registered

–          58 eligible donors

–          63 units of blood collected

–          63 first time donors

–          Up to 189 lives saved or sustained!

Photos of Central Campus Blood Drive

Published on