Though the Be a Hero at the Big House event may be a month away, Wolverines for Life recently released a video to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation.
The event, which takes place on Nov. 16 at the Big House, will give students first-hand access to the Jack Roth Stadium Club and an opportunity to donate blood, sign up to be an organ donor and be screened to donate bone marrow.
LSA freshman Tucker Schumacher, who appeared in the video, was given a second chance at life after he received a liver transplant when he was 14 months old. Schumacher has organized donor drives at his high school in the past and is aiding with the planning of the Be a Hero event.
“I’m just trying to spread awareness to those who need a liver transplant or any kind of transplant that there’s a big shortage in donors,” Schumacher said.
A lack of awareness of the issue and the perception that the registry process is complicated have resulted in a shortage of donors, according to Dr. Jeffrey Punch, the division chief of the transplantation section of general surgery at the University of Michigan Health System.
He noted that people are often skeptical of becoming donors due to the concern that doctors will be less apt to assist ailing patients, which he seeks to dispel.
“The fundamental rule of all of transplantation is called the dead donor rule: You never take an organ that’s life sustaining from anyone that’s not dead,” Punich said. “People worry that there will be some way that donation will encroach upon the care of people while they’re alive, but the reality is that transplantation can never occur until things are literally hopeless.”
Schumacher said that as an organ recipient, he wants to be someday provide the same life-saving service to others in need.
“It’s really special to me because I’ve been given a second chance that most people in my position don’t get,” he said. “So to be able to help those — especially the little kids, because that’s what I was — but anybody waiting for a transplant in their time of need means a lot to me because somebody did that for me,” Schumacher said.
In addition to promoting efforts to help save lives, the event serves as a key component to the University’s long-standing rivalry with Ohio State University. The week before the annual football game, both schools will be running organ donor drives, as well as the annual Blood Battle competition, to see which school can garner the most involvement.
“The challenge versus Ohio State is a fun thing to do as a way of taking a fun rivalry to do something tangible,” Punch said. “The point of the matter is to get people to talk about it and to get people to deal with mortality. It’s a great opportunity to take a high profile event and turn people’s attention to organ donation.”
According to Punch, organ donation is unique because it is an available solution to many medical illnesses and can significantly increase the quality of life for patients.
“A lot of medicine is dealing with the problem,” Punch said. “You can’t fix diabetes; you have to deal with it. There are all the problems that people just manage, but transplants can fix things. Transplant surgery is one of the most dramatic things in all of medicine, and it’s the only way to give people with organ failure a reasonable life. You take really, really sick people and make them really, really healthy, and that’s very rewarding.”
According to Punch, there is a national goal to have 50 percent of Americans registered to donate by 2015. He added some states, such as Utah, have 72 percent of their eligible population registered, whereas Michigan has only about 20 percent registered. Punch stresses it is easy to register and save a life.
“People talk about transplant as lifesaving, but the reality is we’re all mortals and what we’re doing is extending life, which is really a priceless gift,” Punch said.