‘I’m a gay man,’ he says. Their tone abruptly shifted. They said, ‘Well, you won’t be donating today,’ in a stern tone. After being denied permission to donate plasma due to COVID-19, a COVID-19 survivor spreads awareness.

“Over the last week or so, I’ve been postponing sharing my post-COVID tale because I’ve struggled to find the right words.

I’ve finally discovered the right words. I’ve discovered far too many.

After making a full recovery, I tested negative for COVID-19 at Mt. Sinai two weeks ago. A few days later, significant levels of antibodies were found in samples of my blood that they had obtained. They said I looked like a good candidate for plasma donation.

Following that, I was subjected to two distinct (but identical) rounds of donor screening questions. I answered all of the questions honestly, and an appointment to give plasma was set up for me.

My temperature was taken, and I was permitted into the waiting area when I arrived for my appointment. Several other staff members and donors were there as they collected our identification and inquired about our blood donor cards.

Courtesy of Lukus Estok

I was asked if I had one when they arrived.

I said, ‘I don’t.’

After that, I was asked if I had ever donated blood.

‘Not since I was 18 years old.’ I haven’t been able to do so. I’m both excited and nervous.’

After that, I was asked why I hadn’t’really been able to give previously.

Now, I was both excited and nervous at this point. I assumed I was just a guy getting ready to donate plasma after multiple rounds of screening questions to which I could honestly respond.

‘I’m a gay man,’ I declared.

The tonality. The expression on his face (even with a mask on). The temperature in the room seemed to fluctuate.

They were terse in their response.

‘Well, you’re not going to donate today.’

I was taken aback when I realised I had just given them something they had no right to know. Then, eager for what was about to happen, not to be what was about to happen, I inquired further.

‘You are not going to donate today.’

Courtesy of Lukus Estok

My blood began to boil, but it also began to flood my face, causing me to blush. I decided to provide the only authentic piece of information I had. Even though I knew I was surrounded by staff people who must know the laws and regulations better than I did, I hoped it would save me.

‘If this is about my sexual orientation, the FDA recently eased its restrictions on homosexual and bi males donating…’

I was stopped in my tracks.

‘I’m not sure what you think you know, but you’re not going to donate today.’

They walked 6 or 10 feet away to another member of staff. They spoke to me in whispered tones, gesturing in my direction. This is when I realized/remembered that the entire trade was taking place in plain view of 5-6 staff members and at least one or two other contributors. There were no more screening questions requested of me. There was no subtlety or prudence here. This was stated clearly.

I was escorted to a tiny office where the Manager of Special Donor Services spoke at/to/with me for the next 90 minutes. I screamed, argued, and admittedly sobbed.

While the screening questions had been changed (they made it apparent they’d rectified those questions), they had made a mistake in granting me an appointment. While the FDA has announced (slightly) loosened limitations on accepting blood/plasma donations from gay/bi/MSM people, the Revised York Blood Center has not yet made the administrative decision to follow the new criteria.

They explained to me, ‘It’s not like turning on a light switch.’ Before accepting me as the healthy qualified donor that I am, they needed to update their computers and retrain their personnel.

They then tell me that I’ll most likely be able to donate in the fall when another wave of the virus is expected. Exciting news for me: I’ll still be me in a few months, but they and their computers will consider me acceptable.

I’ve never been more ashamed (or angry or deflated) than last week. Being told that the still-too-rare assistance I can provide in a global catastrophe is unacceptable simply because of who I am. This is the city. In the city of New York. In the year 2020.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s going through this and worse right now, both locally and across the country. In a crisis, you must be ready to respond. Despite this, it is regarded as non-essential.”

Courtesy of Lukus Estok

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