Right now on the streets of Rochester, real-life superheroes are engaged in an epic battle of good versus … good. Rochester's first responders are going head to head (or rather, arm to arm) to see who can give the most of themselves for a cause that's greater than themselves. They're rolling up their sleeves to give blood in the Battle of the Badges, a friendly competition between Gold Cross, the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office, the Rochester Police Department and area fire departments. Donations benefit the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program.
"When it comes to patient care we're all on the same team, but to have the chance to try to get a leg up on any of our fellow comrades is always fun," Kate Arms, a Gold Cross paramedic, tells us. "We definitely enjoy giving each other a hard time."
Especially when it's for a cause that's close to their hearts. "We see the need for blood on a daily basis," Kevin Torgerson tells us. Torgerson, Olmsted County Sheriff, says he and his colleagues were eager to get involved in the Battle of the Badges. "We thought it was a great idea," he tells us. "It draws a connection to what first responders do and see. And it brings attention to the continuous need for blood donations."
That need is "enormous," Jackie O'Reilly tells us, especially during the holidays when more people are traveling and the number of car accidents increases. "There is no replacement for blood products," O'Reilly, marketing and recruitment coordinator for the Mayo Blood Donor Program, says. "Even with all of the technology we have, we haven't created a replacement for blood."
Each year, Mayo Clinic transfuses around 50,000 "units" (or approximately one pint) of blood. Around 70 percent of that comes from donations to the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Program. The other 30 percent is purchased from organizations like the American Red Cross. And 100 percent of the donations rely on generous donors.
While the first responders admit there's been some trash talk friendly banter between groups throughout the competition, they know the Battle of the Badges is about much more than bragging rights. "As first responders, we often meet people in the most terrifying moments of their lives," Arms says. "We get the privilege of walking them through the first steps of the journey to recovery. Donating blood is just another way of doing that. We know the role that blood plays in positive outcomes and we donate because we care about our patients."
The response to the competition, which began in September, has been "amazing," O'Reilly says. "It's been our first-ever large scale, communitywide challenge, and it's brought in a lot of new donors."
At press time, the a combined team of Olmsted County fire departments was leading the competition. The Battle of the Badges runs through Dec. 31, so there's plenty of time left to get involved if you're rooting for another team. You don't need to be a first responder to make your vote count. Just make a donation at either of Mayo Clinic's Blood Donor Program locations or at a community blood drive near you, and be sure to let the technician know which organization you're supporting. It's an easy way for you to be a superhero, too.
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