Megan Morris reclined in a blood donor chair, her head and knees elevated, munching Goldfish crackers and sipping Gatorade.
The 17-year-old Springstead High senior was with her allied health class on a field trip to the LifeSouth Community Blood Centers. This was Megan's second donation. "Every time I get the opportunity, I've done it," she said.
Seventeen-year-olds are allowed to donate blood on their own, but since this was a school trip, Megan and the other 17-year-olds needed permission from home. Sixteen-year-olds can donate blood, but must have parental/guardian permission for any donation, school-related or not.
The blood bank trip was the first in 20 years for teacher Christine Ansted. She teaches classes that prepare students for careers in the medical field. Allied health is an exploratory class introducing students to just about any health care field imaginable, Ansted said.
Their visits include trips to Spring Hill Regional Hospital, Spring Hill Health and Rehab and businesses where students learn about medical records, physical therapy, occupational therapy and diagnostic imaging.
Ed Keith is the regional director of LifeSouth. He described the recent field trip as part of the "Five Points of Life" program. It is designed to educate students from elementary through high school and other interested groups. "Even senior citizens," he said.
He said the point is "to illustrate the importance of donating, to show the kids how it goes from the blood drive all the way to the hospital."
LifeSouth district community development coordinator Tom Davis explained further.
"We're trying to educate the young about the importance of donation, not only blood donation," he said, noting the five points are blood, apheresis, marrow, cord blood and organ/tissue. "Five ways you can save lives," he said.
The 29 students were divided into three groups that went in different directions throughout the morning. Two stayed at the blood bank, while the third traveled to the hospital.
At the blood bank, students who wished to do so donated and others went into the lab to see what happens when blood is put into a centrifuge. They saw the various storage areas — blood, ready-to-go, refrigerated at between 33.8 and 42.8 degrees, unprocessed blood at the same temperature, plasma frozen at minus 40 degrees and platelets kept at room temperature, but continually agitated.
Back in the donation room, senior Cody Marrone, 18, was just finishing his donation while classmate Shannon Cataldo, 18, waited for him. Marrone said he donated for the first time on his 18th birthday in September.
"It was my first thing to do as an adult," he said. "You're just helping people and that's a good feeling."
He said the most interesting thing he saw that morning was blood infected with MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus), a highly resistant bacterial infection at the hospital. "That was pretty gross," he said.
Cataldo, who would like to be a physical therapist or radiologist, appreciated the day's outing. "It's a good experience to learn information you wouldn't learn from not coming here," Cataldo said.
At 18, senior Rebekah Rios is athree-time donor who began giving when she was 16. "I just feel like if I start early, I can help more people throughout my life," she said.