In the weeks leading up to the Ohio State University football game, University of Michigan staff and students are participating in the 38th annual campus-wide “Blood Battle” blood drive to out-donate OSU. Though the University suffered a defeat against the Buckeyes on the field last year, Michigan students secured their seventh Blood Battle win in 11 years. With just over two weeks until the game, University students aim to repeat that victory.

Nursing senior Alex Zeto, executive board member of Blood Drives United, explained that to her and many others, the competition is only one part of the Battle’s purpose. She said she enjoys how the Battle’s rivalry-driven success is supplemented by the fact each pint of blood is used to help a person in need.

Zeto first attempted to donate blood in high school, but she was turned away due to Red Cross’s eligibility requirements. But she got to campus and saw a drive at her dorm freshman year and decided to try again. She joined Blood Drives United the following year and has helped the organization plan the Blood Battle annually since then.

“Since high school, I just thought it seemed like a really easy way to give back with people who need my blood more than I do,” Zeto said.

The competition officially began on Oct. 30. OSU was leading at the time of publication with 1,003 donated pints of blood in comparison to University’s 972. However, neither school has yet to garner half the number of donations they obtained last year, and Michigan has 20 drives scheduled in the coming weeks to continue collecting donations up until the deadline.

This past weekend was one of the Battle’s biggest events: Be a Hero. At this event, which took place on the Big House field, 456 pints of blood were donated.

Megan Podschlne is the program manager for Wolverines for Life, the parent organization to Blood Drives United. Podschlne described Wolverines for Life as a center for organizing “blood, organ, tissue, and bone marrow donations,” under which the domain of Blood Drives United squarely falls. 

Podschlne said in her experience at Michigan Medicine’s Transplant Center, donated blood is typically used for ER and surgical patients. Zeto reiterated the Red Cross’s assertion one pint of blood has the potential to save up to three lives.

LSA sophomore Spencer Wood first heard about the Blood Battle when a faculty member at his high school advised future Wolverines to participate. Already having been involved in Red Cross volunteer work, Wood said he was excited at the opportunity. He now helps with advertisement for the event.

In third grade, Wood was diagnosed with a blood disorder that required frequent transfusions and blood work.

“I wouldn’t be here today without that work,” Wood said. “Through that, I just wanted to help out in any way I could. And as long as I have been able, I’ve been donating three to five times a year ever since then.”

Business senior Vijita Kamath shared a similar story, though in her case, it was her mother who had benefited from donations in the past.

“My mother battled cancer for 10+ years, so a lot of my childhood was spent in and around hospitals learning about the need for transfusions and the acute shortage of blood,” Kamath wrote in a message to The Daily. “I learned I was a universal donor (O+) back then and encouraged to donate when I got older.” 

As an international student from India, Kamath had not been able to donate prior to this year’s Battle.

“The Red Cross has restrictions on eligibility if you have visited or had prolonged stay in any malaria or other disease-affected regions,” Kamath said. “I first learned about this when I tried to donate as a sophomore and was answering the required questions during a walk-in. But I was ineligible since (I) had been home to India over the summer … This was the first time I had not been home for over 6 months, so I was eligible to donate.”

The annual Blood Battle is not the only opportunity University students and faculty have to donate blood. Blood Drives United hosts an additional drive in the winter which frequently puts the University into competition with other local or Big 10 schools. Additionally, people are able to make blood donations as frequently as every eight weeks, according to the Red Cross.

Still, Wood and others said they believe the culture on a college campus, and specifically Michigan’s campus, makes it easier to solicit mass numbers of donations.

“I think there is a difference in doing it on your own, searching for random blood drives … and being a student, because one thing I tell people is, you’re not just donating for yourself,” Wood said. “You’re donating for other people, but on the other hand you’re donating on behalf of the University of Michigan. You’re able to exercise that name and do good will through that as well.”

Zeto said they’ve been trying year after year to make the drives increasingly convenient for students and staff. Especially considering the Union’s closing, Zeto said Blood Drives United has been pushing for the University community to take advantage of dorm drives. They have also set up more opportunities to donate near athletic facilities, on North campus and at the hospital.

“It’s so easy,” Zeto said. “You go somewhere to study or you’re just hanging out and you have an hour of time to kill. Why not donate blood?”

Zeto noted this year’s Blood Battle comes on the heels of a recent blood shortage in Southeastern Michigan, directly affecting the way Michigan Medicine and other local healthcare entities are able to help their patients.

For more information, interested students are advised to visit this site to view donor eligibility guidelines and a calendar of scheduled drives.

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