Twenty-eight fourth and fifth graders observed their instructor receive her regular infusion at Jamestown Regional Medical Center on Friday. Since classes are all held virtually, the students watched live using a video-conferencing platform called Zoom.
This is what happens when healthcare, education and a pandemic mix.
Medina Public Schools Teacher Jessica Schlecht suffers from ulcerative colitis – a disease of the bowel which causes inflammation in the digestive tract. Her treatment includes a 30-minute Entyvio infusion once every six weeks. Schlecht has incorporated her illness and how she manages it into her curriculum. The students use it as a prism into their anatomy and physiology lessons throughout the year. On Friday, however, the students viewed virtually from their homes.
“I grew up not liking science and math. That’s why I became a teacher,” Schlecht said. “I love being able to show them that math and science are fun.”
Schlecht explained how ulcerative colitis means her body makes too many white blood cells, which causes inflammation in her digestive system. The infusion helps her body process that material so it can fit through her colon.
The students looked on as JRMC Cancer Center Registered Nurse K.C. Robison inserted a needle into Schlecht’s arm. A colon is like a vacuum hose, Robison said, it has ridges and waves so sometimes seeds and other small foods get stuck.
“Does COVID-19 impact your circulatory system?” one student asked.
“Indirectly, yes,” Robison said. “However, it causes the most issues in the lungs because it’s hard to get oxygen and it impairs the exchange of gases.”
“What about people with asthma?” another student asked. “Does COVID-19 impact them?”
“It can. And it can be pretty bad,” Robison said. “That’s why we ask you to stay home, stay safe and wash your hands. You’re doing the right thing right now.”
Students have expressed anxiety. They also say they long for their classroom.
“I miss school,” said Carter Schlecht. “There’s lots of fun stuff coming up like a North Dakota food party and the fourth-grade elementary medical program.”
Several students agreed with Parker. “I miss school so much!” one wrote.
Robison joked about disliking math in school.
“Math is super fun. How can you not like math?” another student responded.
Trevin Behm said he remembered when his teacher would come to school with bruises on her arm. After today’s lesson, he understands why.
“They stick needles in her vein,” he said.
For hard-to-find veins, nurses sometimes use what’s called a vein light, Robison said, shining a green light on Schlecht’s arm.
“We can use this so we don’t have to poke people so many times. It works on anybody,” he said.
Local donors supported the purchase of these vein lights, which are used throughout patient care areas at JRMC.
“We’re grateful for the community’s support,” he said.
The students appeared grateful for their math and science lessons. Several said they are even considering healthcare careers. Destiny Opp wants to be a nurse. Dawson Cassula wants to be a chiropractor (he’s “obsessed” with bones cracking) and Melissa Schlecht, Jessica’s daughter who suffers from the same condition, wants to be a pediatric gastroenterologist.
Learn more about the JRMC Cancer Center or how JRMC is keeping people safe. For more information, call (701) 952-1050.
Jamestown Regional Medical Center, in partnership with Sanford Health, opened the JRMC Cancer Center in 2019. The JRMC Cancer Center serves 100 people from Sanford and other healthcare organizations in the Jamestown area each month, saving more than 160,000 miles of travel each year.