In the past week, I have learned more random, unique tidbits about strangers than I ever did in the dreaded icebreakers of classes and student organizations. Over a few juice boxes, I heard about what it’s like to dive with sharks off the coast of Australia, I engaged in a friendly debate about the best type of pie, and I shared my favorite fun facts about Fig Newtons with a small audience. I did all of this working at the Blood Battle. Granted, I’ve been at blood drives before — these people are essentially forced to listen and respond to me as I make sure they’re feeling okay after giving blood — but talking to donors is the highlight of my day.
As a chair of Blood Battle, the nurses and volunteers sometimes assume that I am going into public health after graduation. That always makes me feel sheepish, because I am a pre-law student. See, you don’t have to be pre-med to help save lives.
One pint — one person — potentially saves three lives. There are many numbers in the statistics I rattle off when promoting Blood Battle: We are trying to collect 2,400 pints of blood to save three times as many lives. Every two seconds, someone needs blood. The Blood Battle is a 28-year tradition between Michigan and Ohio State. Michigan lost by three pints two years ago, and won by 181 pints last year. The months of planning are entrenched in budgetary numbers, numbers of promotional materials and numbers of appointments.
But it’s not about the numbers. When people give blood, they donate time and relinquish a physical part of themselves to restore other people’s lives. My co-chairs and I, along with our volunteers and nurses, have dedicated our time to a competition of service and school spirit. It’s about people.
A lot of people say they’re scared of needles. But how great of a fear will stop you from donating a pint of blood to help three people? You don’t have to watch. You can listen to your iPod. And afterward, you’re given juice and cookies. It’s a simple way to do something important.
A donor from the School of Social Work was turned away from donating blood two years ago because of a number: her racing pulse rate. She was too nervous to give blood. But the deferral didn’t deter her. I met her and learned about her year working in Baltimore schools with Americorps while she snacked on some Oreos after giving blood last week. She conceded that there is nothing scary about giving blood, and she now plans to be a regular donor.
A fine line exists between turning faces into numbers of pints of blood and seeing them as people. But I didn’t argue with the nurses two minutes before our doors closed just to squeeze another body into the Koessler Room of the League. No, it was the donor’s earnest face, flushed from running up two flights of stairs and genuine desire to donate despite a long day of research and class, that led me to plead with the nurses to work just a little bit longer on a Friday night.
School spirit is a huge part of Blood Battle. Two years ago, we lost by three pints. You’re probably sitting near three people right now, and if those three people donated blood, the difference could have meant victory. That said, I think it says a lot about Michigan and Michigan students that we still have the winning record. Ohio State may have more students, but members of the University of Michigan community have bigger hearts.
I hope that we can prove Michigan’s caring spirit in the last few days of Blood Battle. How many lives have you saved today?
Mary Rock is an LSA junior and chair of Blood Battle.