Monday, December 11, 2017
Health

Banned blood donor just wanted to help a friend

Blake Lynch is a nursing student. So it is hardly surprising that when he learned a friend and fellow student with sickle cell anemia needed blood transfusions, he wanted to help her.

Lynch is gay, and said so on the application he filled out March 1 in Orlando, where he and his friend Emmy Derisbrun are students at the University of Central Florida and Seminole State College.

That's when he discovered that his sexual history, says the Food and Drug Administration, bars him for life from donating blood.

Now the student is an activist.

With his partner Brett Donnelly, Lynch promptly founded the aptly named Banned4Life to let people know about this situation. They'll be at today's St. Pete Pride event, spreading the word and seeking more signatures to send to the FDA seeking a reconsideration of the policy. They already have 15,000.

It was humiliating to be turned away from donating blood for Derisbrun, Lynch says. But his priority is the bigger issue — saving lives of people who need blood.

Fewer than four in 10 Americans are eligible to donate blood. The rest are eliminated temporarily or permanently for weighing too little, traveling to certain parts of the world, carrying certain diseases — or having sex with people at risk of certain diseases.

Interestingly, a woman who has had sex with a gay man is herself restricted from donating blood only for a year — the same delay many experts say would work for gay men.

Of everyone who is permitted to donate, less than 10 percent do so. Little wonder that blood banks frequently issue urgent calls for donations.

So the last thing a future nurse like Lynch wants is to discourage donors. "I thought that if we protest, we could make it even harder to get blood,'' he told me.

"What we say (to gay men) is, 'Since you can't donate, encourage other people to go out and donate for you,' '' he explained.

Lynch may be among the younger advocates for this cause, but he's far from alone. AIDS experts for years have said the FDA policy is obsolete, stemming from the early 1980s when there was no good test to ensure blood was free of the virus.

Years ago, as testing technology became faster and more reliable, the Red Cross, America's Blood Centers and others urged the FDA to rethink the ban. Earlier this month, the American Medical Association added its voice:

"The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science," said AMA board member Dr. William Kobler. The group "urges a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone."

I called the FDA and here's the emailed statement I received:

"FDA and (the Department of Health and Human Services) are committed to continuously improving the safety and availability of the nation's blood supply. FDA and HHS continue to reevaluate the scientific basis for its blood donor deferral policies.''

More than a year ago, HHS sought comments on criteria that would allow donations by gay men, but "no decision has been made yet to proceed with the pilot.''

Lynch knows his cause is a tough one, but he sounds undaunted.

"Not everyone is going to be happy about it, because of stereotypes and preconceived notions. But we have a positive message — we want to increase the blood donor population.

"It's not about us, it's about people who need blood.''

Comments
A boy shares the pain of being bullied - inspiring thousands to show him love (w/video)

A boy shares the pain of being bullied - inspiring thousands to show him love (w/video)

While fighting back tears, young Keaton Jones couldn’t stop asking one question: Why?"Just out of curiosity, why do they bully? What’s the point of it?" he asks his mother while in the passenger seat of a parked car. "Why do you find joy in taking in...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Legalization of marijuana for adults poses problems for people dealing with teens

Legalization of marijuana for adults poses problems for people dealing with teens

WESTMINSTER, Calif. — After Yarly Raygoza attended the drug prevention program at the Boys & Girls Club here last year, she used what she learned to talk a few friends out of using marijuana.The 14-year-old took the class again this year but worries ...
Published: 12/10/17
Millions gained coverage since Obamacare, but many are worse off as premiums soar

Millions gained coverage since Obamacare, but many are worse off as premiums soar

As open enrollment for Affordable Care Act coverage nears the deadline of Dec. 15, and Florida once again leads all states using the federal exchange at healthcare.gov, Heidi and Richard Reiter sit at the kitchen table at their Davie home and struggl...
Published: 12/10/17
A gift of hands: After loss, a man finds hope from healing ones (w/video)

A gift of hands: After loss, a man finds hope from healing ones (w/video)

ST. PETERSBURG — Francisco Piedra fixed his eyes on the man sitting beside him. His name was Richard Brown, and in his hands he held Piedra’s new ones.The prosthetics were black and plastic. Each one took about 20 hours to build from a 3D printer. Pi...
Published: 12/08/17
The solar eclipse burned a crescent wound on a woman’s retina. She wasn’t wearing proper glasses.

The solar eclipse burned a crescent wound on a woman’s retina. She wasn’t wearing proper glasses.

Like so many others, 26-year-old Nia Payne wanted to view of August’s historic solar eclipse but didn’t have a pair of protective glasses. She walked outside on Staten Island and glanced at the sun - 70 percent was covered - for about six seconds bef...
Published: 12/08/17
At St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital, death of a colleague inspires ‘hats with heart’

At St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital, death of a colleague inspires ‘hats with heart’

TAMPA — Brittany Weatherby didn’t know how to crochet when she started her job as a registered nurse at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital, and she never dreamed of learning how.Maybe her grandma used to, she tried to remember, but Weatherby never really ...
Published: 12/08/17
How kids’ books can introduce a lifetime of fitness

How kids’ books can introduce a lifetime of fitness

When I became a parent last year, it seemed likely my marathon running days were behind me.Running had made me a grittier person. It had given me the very specific self-assurance that comes from calmly enduring 26 miles on foot, a quality that would ...
Published: 12/08/17

Mayo Clinic Q&A: seek attention for mole that bleeds; a look at lung restoration

DON’T WAIT: BLEEDING MOLE SHOULD BE EVALUATED BY A DOCTOR Should I see a health care provider for a mole that bleeds occasionally?Yes. Although it may not be serious, a mole that bleeds is a possible sign of melanoma, a rare but serious skin cancer t...
Published: 12/08/17
Lightened Shepherd’s Pie comforting, quick

Lightened Shepherd’s Pie comforting, quick

When the weather gets cooler, we want to tuck into comfort food in our home. Doing a recipe makeover on a tasty-but-less-than-healthy dish is one of my favorite challenges. Today, I’m taking on a wintertime classic with my Lightened Shepherd’s Pie. T...
Published: 12/08/17
Green Salad With Pumpkin Vinaigrette celebrates holiday season

Green Salad With Pumpkin Vinaigrette celebrates holiday season

By MELISSA D’ARABIANSummer may officially be the season of green salads, but wintertime versions have advantages that make them worth exploring. The cooler weather seasonable greens are hearty and darker green, which makes them nutrient-rich. And, th...
Published: 12/08/17