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My hero: new video promotes life-saving donation during annual U-M, Ohio State challenge

Wolverines for Life kicks off annual campaign to encourage blood, organ, bone marrow donation

Ann Arbor, Mich. – People given the gift of life – blood, organs, tissue or bone marrow – are grateful every day for the hero who gave them a second chance at life. In an inspirational new video, U-M patients share how their hero impacted them and their families with a life-saving donation.

The video “My Hero” is the cornerstone of this fall’s Wolverines for Life campaign that includes a massive donor drive at Michigan Stadium on Nov. 17.

Wolverines for Life is a collaboration between the U-M Health System and other University of Michigan groups, schools and departments, along with the American Red Cross, Be the Match/National Marrow Donor Program, Gift of Life Michigan and the Michigan Eye-Bank.

The video includes messages from multiple recipients including a mother of two whose liver transplant saved her life; a young woman who received kidneys from both her mother and her uncle; and children at Camp Michitanki, a summer camp for transplant recipients.

“My hero gave me time,” says Robert Gholston, a liver transplant recipient from Troy, Mich., who is featured in the video.

U-M officials also hope the video will spur participation in the annual fall challenges between U-M and Ohio State – the Wolverine vs. Buckeye Challenge for Life and the Blood Battle. Each school tries to beat the other in collecting blood donations or organ donor sign-ups before their teams meet on the gridiron Nov. 30, this year at U-M. U-M won the organ donation challenge in 2012, but lost in a close race in the Blood Battle.

“All of the people in this new video are with us today because of someone who gave them the gift of life. Signing up on the donor registry, giving blood or being screened for bone marrow donation is a simple thing to do, but it truly can save someone’s life,” says Jeffrey Punch, M.D., director of transplantation at the University of Michigan’s Transplant Center.

“We don’t have enough organs or bone marrow available for those who need life-saving transplants. In fact, about 119,000 people currently are waiting for organ transplants, that’s a few thousand more than the number of people who fill Michigan Stadium for a football game, and that’s what makes our annual fall challenges against Ohio State so appropriate.”

“Be a Hero at the Big House,” is in its third year and is expected to be U-M’s largest donor drive ever. The event is scheduled Nov. 17 at Michigan Stadium in the club levels. From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., participants can donate blood, sign up on the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, be screened for bone marrow donation as well as tour the club-level seating area and take photos with trophies or the stadium as a backdrop.

Signing up for the organ donor registry or participating in the Be the Match screening for bone marrow does not require an appointment.

 “We hope to sign up a huge number of potential organ, tissue and bone marrow donors, collect many pints of blood, and give donors a chance to view the Big House’s club level too,” Punch says.

Those who donate at the Big House event will be entered into raffle drawings for various prizes. Parking will be free at the stadium near the club-level doors on the Crisler Arena side.

The annual Wolverine vs. Buckeye Challenge for Life allows people to sign up as organ donors upon their death and have their pledge tallied for their favorite school. U-M co-sponsors the Wolverine-Buckeye Challenge with Gift of Life Michigan, which is the state’s federally designated organ and tissue recovery organization. It acts as intermediary between donors, their families and hospital staff. Gift of Life Michigan, in collaboration with the Michigan Eye-Bank, provides all services necessary for organ, tissue and eye donation.

Every day, 18 people die while waiting for an organ transplant, 77 people receive an organ transplant and another 138 people are added to the national waiting list. A single organ and tissue donor can save eight lives and help up to 50 people.

The Challenge ends at 11:59 p.m. Nov. 28, in advance of the Nov. 30 football game between Ohio State and U-M.

U-M leaders emphasize that after signing up, every U-M fan should tell family members or other loved ones they have done so, to ensure it is not a surprise to their loved ones.

Blood Battle: The event is sponsored by the American Red Cross Blood Services Region of Southeastern Michigan, as well as the student organization Blood Drives United with support from the Washtenaw County American Red Cross Club at U-M, and other student organizations on campus. More than 30 drives around the U-M campus have been scheduled, beginning Nov. 4 and ending Nov. 27.

Every year, 10,000 patients with leukemia, lymphoma, and 70 other life-threatening blood diseases need a marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant but have no donor match in their family. They depend on Be The Match to help them find an unrelated donor and receive the transplant they need. For many, a marrow transplant is their best or only hope for a cure.

Partial funding for Wolverines for Life efforts is provided by the Gift of Life Foundation.

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