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BVU Student Aids in Medical Emergency at Covid-19 Mass Vaccination

April 16, 2021 10:07am

Buena Vista University student Karole Iraheta enjoyed a “right place, right time” moment on a cool, blustery morning in Storm Lake on Saturday.

Not that the moment was all that enjoyable, mind you.

Iraheta, a junior studying business management, was one of four BVU students assisting at a Covid-19 mass vaccination drive-through clinic at Storm Lake Elementary School. Her skill as a dual-language speaker served her community in a time of crisis when a patient suffered a medical emergency.

“We had a patient in an emergency, and I yelled across the parking lot, ‘Karole, we need you!’”  remembers Buena Vista County Emergency Management Coordinator Aimee Barritt.

Iraheta sprinted to the patient who was alone in her vehicle. Iraheta calmly helped assess the situation and provided interpretation for the patient, who spoke Spanish. Iraheta stayed with the woman while providing communication between the patient and a nurse on-site and then with ambulance personnel who arrived within minutes.

“I let the patient know the nurse would take care of her, that we were there to help,” Iraheta says, noting she often said, “manten la calma,” which, in Spanish, means “stay calm.”

The patient was transported quickly some two blocks to the Buena Vista County Regional Medical Center. Then, Iraheta and the rest of the staff and volunteers on site returned to work, seeing that more than 300 patients were served in the drive-through vaccination effort.

“Karole was exceptionally calm; we’re so thankful she was there to translate,” Barritt says.

“As a student at Storm Lake High School, I took courses and testing to become state-certified as a Certified Nursing Assistant,” Iraheta says. “We were put in scenarios before our clinics and were always instructed to stay calm. The training came in handy.”

As did Iraheta’s ability to communicate in English and Spanish, a skill she honed last summer while completing an internship at Rembrandt Foods in nearby Rembrandt, where she translated for a nurse who conducted physicals for new employees.

Iraheta was happy to help on Saturday. She was also pleased to receive her first Moderna shot, which puts her on a path toward a great senior year at BVU, one in which she hopes and prays campus will reopen as a more and more peers and community members are vaccinated.

Barritt notes how thankful local leaders are for the assistance provided by volunteers such as Iraheta. Dozens of local givers have given up blocks of time at vaccination clinics in an effort to see the process goes smoothly. Iraheta and two BVU peers, Alondra Melendez and Alondra Ramirez-Zavala, helped provide translation assistance among patients and clinical staff on Saturday, while also distributing paperwork and making sure vehicles moved in a systematic manner. All three are Clausen Family Education for Service Scholars, who complete 300 hours of volunteer service in the community each year through the AmeriCorps program.

Another BVU student, Jack McEvoy, volunteered in a mass vaccination clinic two days earlier in Alta.

“I have a great appreciation for BVU and their willingness to partner with us by having students assist at every vaccination clinic we’ve done,” Barritt says. “The BVU students join other community volunteers in standing in the cold wind during our drive-through clinics just to make sure things run efficiently. It isn’t glamorous work, but it is so important.”

(credit to Tim Gallagher)