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Rivalry blood battle enters final days

Ohio State and Michigan competition supports communities through blood donation

The Ohio State University Buckeyes and the University of Michigan Wolverines face off on the field and at blood donation sites on both universities’ campuses this month. The annual Blood Battle leverages the “greatest rivalry in college football” to increase blood donations for both communities.

The rules of the competition are simple: whichever university collects the most donations through official blood drives by Nov. 23 wins the Blood Battle trophy, which is presented to the winning school during the Ohio State versus Michigan game. This year’s competition is close – as of writing, Ohio State is leading by just six units.

“We have lost the past four years,” said Olivia Strickland, president of the Buckeye Blood Club, “but we have been putting in a lot of hard work this year. I’m excited to see it pay off.”

The demand for blood donations remains high. Every two seconds, a patient needs blood, Strickland said. One donation can save up to three lives. A typical blood donation appointment has far reaching impact and only lasts an hour. Strickland hopes Ohio State can beat its goal of 1,500 donations this year.

“As a medical oncologist caring for patients with rare blood cancers, I witness the impact of blood donation on the lives of my patients on a daily basis,” said Dr. Sumithira Vasu, an associate professor of medicine and medical director of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Stem Cell Therapy Lab. 

Through a partnership with Versiti Blood Center of Ohio, donations made at Ohio State go directly to the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. Since 2019, Versiti has provided Ohio State with blood, blood products and specialty laboratory services, allowing the university to maintain the care it provides as a Level I trauma center and as an NCI-designated cancer center. Patients in need of cancer treatments, organ transplants and other procedures all benefit from blood donations.  

“Blood cannot be artificially manufactured and is dependent on the generosity of those in our community,” said Vasu. “With the holidays coming up, your donation could make the difference between a patient feeling well enough to join a family celebration or not; being well enough to hold their grandchild for the first time or not. Your decision to donate blood has a ripple effect – and improves not just the life of the person who receives the blood, but all those they love and care for.” 

Todd Burnworth received what he calls “life-saving” care at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center in 2017. After a blood clot led to an acute myeloid leukemia diagnosis, Burnworth underwent transfusions that supplied him with both red blood cells and platelets.

“I don’t know how anyone can be prepared for something like that,” he said of his cancer diagnosis. “But thankfully, there were people that do the planning for just that, which includes maintaining a blood bank. And those blood products directly contributed to me being alive right now.”

After a bone marrow transplant, Burnworth learned that he also had stage 3 colorectal cancer. He said he underwent blood transfusions during treatment for that as well. Happily, he is now in remission for both diseases. Once is he cleared by his doctor for blood donations, he hopes to repay the life-saving gift he was given.

“If you would give a person CPR, or perform the Heimlich maneuver, donating blood is the same,” Burnworth said. “It’s the obvious thing to do, to help when someone is in need. It just so happens that with blood, you’re doing it before the event occurs.”

“I hope to strengthen our community by working together to reach this goal,” Strickland said. “The blood donated goes directly to patients at the Wexner Medical Center. We are truly impacting people around us.”

More scheduling information is available on the Versiti website.

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