Wolverines for Life forms line on Diag to promote organ donations

Monday, October 12, 2015 - 7:26pm

LSA senior Sarah Gerlach pins a Michigan Flag on the back of Buddy the Blood Drop on the Diag on Monday. Members of Wolverines for Life created a "flash-line" to raise awareness for patients who die while waiting for an organ transplant.

LSA senior Sarah Gerlach pins a Michigan Flag on the back of Buddy the Blood Drop on the Diag on Monday. Members of Wolverines for Life created a "flash-line" to raise awareness for patients who die while waiting for an organ transplant. Buy this photo
Claire Abdo/Daily

 

Twenty-two patients are estimated to die each day in the United States because not enough organ donors are available for organ transplants. More than 122,000 patients nationwide are on the waitlist for organ transplants, 3,500 of whom reside in Michigan. Many diseases like leukemia and sickle cell anemia require a bone marrow transplant to be cured.

With these facts in mind, members of Wolverines for Life — a campus organization focused on educating the community about the importance of organ donations — donned yellow T-shirts with the hashtag #wolverineswontwait and lined up across the Diag on Monday. They encouraged passersby to join the line, drawing 100 people over the course of the day.

The organization collaborates with the American Red Cross, Be the Match, Gift of Life Michigan and Eversight Michigan as part of its educational and philanthropic efforts.

Holly Eliot is the faculty adviser for Blood Drives United, another student organization that was present for the line’s formation Monday. Eliot, also a project manager at the University’s Transplant Center and for Wolverines for Life, said Monday’s line of people was a visual element meant to draw a comparison to lines of patients who have to wait for organ transplants.

Eliot added that the event was based on a similar “flash-line” event called “Hate the Wait” in New York City organized by a network of organ donors in New York called LiveOnNY.

Jennifer Helmer, east Michigan liaison for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, attended to show Johnson’s support for the event. Since taking office in 2011, Johnson has advocated to expand the Michigan Organ Donor Registry.

In 2011, only 27 percent of adult Michiganders were on the donor registry, placing the state near the bottom nationally. As of earlier this year, the number has risen to 4.1 million people — about 52 percent of the state’s adults.

“(Johnson) felt like she needed to do something to save lives,” Helmer said. “She wants to give hope to those who are waiting to live. She is very committed to cause and passionate about it.”

Despite the recent spike in state donors, Internal Medicine Prof. John Magee said there is still a long way to go to meet the patients’ needs.

“The real issue is we’re still way far behind where we need to be,” Magee said. “But everybody helps. It’s their opportunity to be a hero. Many students, faculty and alumni want to have an impact around the world, and the best way (to do that) is to donate blood or sign up to be an organ donor because you can fundamentally save a life with that.”

LSA freshman Parker Schaub said he participated without having had prior knowledge of the event because he realizes the importance of organ donation.

“I just happened to find the line in middle of the Diag, and thought that I wanted to join,” Schaub said. “I think it’s really important that people know that they can donate blood and organs and know how strong the need is.”

In addition to raising awareness about organ donation, the event also advertised the kickoff event for the annual Blood Battle between the University and Ohio State University. The event will be held on Nov. 1, from 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Blood Battle lasts during the entire month of November.