Blood drive

Patti Stevens, a Florence resident, has her blood drawn at the American Red Cross Donor Center in Missoula on Thursday afternoon.

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Anticipation is rising for the upcoming Brawl of the Wild football game, but in the meantime Griz and Bobcats fans will have the opportunity to face off during the annual American Red Cross Cat-Griz Blood Battle.

Blood banks in Montana and across the nation are suffering blood shortages due to the most recent surge of COVID-19, which has contributed to the lowest donor turnout of the year while hospital demand remains high, according to the American Red Cross of Montana.

“For cancer patients, accident victims and countless others, blood is life,” said Alexandria Harris, a Montana Red Cross account manager, in a news release.

“That’s why it’s so important that you show your school spirit, take an hour out of your day and come out and donate. This friendly competition can truly help save lives.”

Between Nov. 5 and 17 there will be five blood drives in Missoula for the Cat-Griz Blood Battle. The competition kicks off at the University of Montana’s School of Pharmacy from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 5. For more information about donation events in Missoula visit the American Red Cross of Montana's Facebook page.

Missoulians can donate blood year-round at the Missoula Red Cross Blood and Platelet Donation Center at 2401 North Reserve St.

On Thursday afternoon a handful of people came in to donate.

Patti Stevens of Florence has been donating blood off-and-on for the last three decades and has a rare blood type. She donates to help save lives, she said.

As Missoula Red Cross technician Baylee Tveidt began Stevens’ donation process, she said that donating blood for the first time can be scary.

“It’s not as bad as you think,” Tveidt said. “After you do it the first time you’ll be like, ‘Oh that’s so easy.’”

Across from Stevens, longtime donors Claudia Bible and her husband were finishing up their donations. Bible has donated over 40 units of blood, equaling almost six gallons. Her husband has donated over 10 gallons.

“Not everyone will take the time to do it, and not everyone can,” Bible said. “It’s a way to make a difference and you can help save a life.”

Nationally, 10,000 more donations are needed each week due to the blood shortage, according to the Red Cross. At this time donor turnout has reached the lowest levels of the year, and September and October had the lowest national blood inventory levels in over a decade.

The Red Cross generally keeps five days' worth of type O blood on hand, but now that’s been cut to only a half-day’s supply.

One unit of blood can be split by three components: red cells, platelets and plasma. Up to three lives can be saved with one donation.

A COVID vaccine or flu shot does not prevent donors from giving blood and there is no waiting period to donate after receiving those vaccinations. Those recovering from COVID can donate 14 days after the end of their symptoms.

To get in on the action, visit RedCrossBlood.org and enter the code GRIZCATCHALLENGE to make an appointment. Donors will receive a free Red Cross Cats vs. Griz shirt while supplies last.

“If you’ve never donated before, we urge you to raise your hand, roll up your sleeve and be someone’s lifeline,” Harris said. “There’s no better feeling than knowing you’re helping save a life.”

Reporter Emily Schabacker of the Billings Gazette contributed to this article. 

This article originally ran on missoulian.com.

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