The Australian National University is widely known as a top hub for research and education - but did you know our university is also a leader when it comes to donating blood? Over the last three years ANU community members have made almost 10,000 donations and introduced close to 700 new donors to the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood program - more than any other organization in the ACT and among the top 20 in Australia.
That news comes as no surprise to Safi Wheeldon, third-year Law/Commerce student and Chair of Burgmann College's charity committee. She says the Burgmann community was thrilled to win the 2023 semester one interhall blood drive, a competition to see which ANU residential college can rack up the most donations.
"It was very fun going in groups to support Lifeblood," Safi says. "The nurses usually set us up next to each other so we can chat and have competitions on who finishes the quickest. Other people from Burgmann who could not donate offered to drive us and would kindly sit and wait to support.
"I went for my first time last year and I enjoyed the experience so much that me and my friend started going every month to two weeks. It is an extremely rewarding initiative to take part in. All you have to do is sit in a chair for about 45 mins and then you have helped thousands of people all over the country who need blood."
Donated blood is used in a wide variety of medical applications, including helping people with cancer and anaemia, in surgical settings and for treating people after traumatic injuries and accidents. Plasma and platelets, which are extracted from donated blood, are also widely used to help treat many diseases, brain disorders, injuries and immune deficiencies.
Giving in groups is encouraged by Lifeblood through its dedicated teams and team champions initiatives, tapping into the leadership drive of people like Safi and the community spirit of places like ANU.
"It's a great idea to come and give blood with friends," says Mitch Bryce from the ACT's Australian Red Cross Lifeblood. "It's easier and less scary if you have pals. And if you are nervous to donate, just let us know or tell your team champion. It's normal to be nervous, but what you need to remember is that donating blood is very different from having a blood test in a clinical setting. You'll get lots of support from our team and we offer lots to eat and drink during your visit too."
Mitch says another interhall blood drive between ANU residences is currently under way, running until October 27. At the same time, college-specific drives are taking place for students and staff in Science and Law. ANU medical students, meanwhile, regularly take part in the inter-university Vampire Cup. He says that while ANU community members typically donate blood at Lifeblood's Civic location, which is within easy walking distance from campus, there are a number of donor centres across the ACT and many more in other state capitals and regional centres.
Safi estimates that she has donated over 10 times now - and every single time has felt safe and supportive. She says it's great to know that many people at ANU share in the commitment to give back to the wider community.
"I love going to Lifeblood," she says. "The whole experience is fun, pain free, with awesome nurses, free food and great music to listen to. You can go with your friends and give back to those who need it. Why wouldn't you want to donate?"