For the last several years, the blood pressure medication I was on has been keeping me from donating blood. I’ve had mixed feedback as to whether it was really the medication or the fact that I had high blood pressure that kept the techs collecting blood at bay. Regardless, I was quite excited when our office announced our semi-annual blood drive and I realized that both issues had been resolved and I should be cleared to donate again.
As I went through the screening process I noticed a question that had never caught my eye: “Have you, even once, had sex with a man since 1977?”
In 1986 I was sexually assaulted by distant family member at a family reunion. It was 10 years before I shared the event with anyone; much longer before I could really get a grip on what had happened and begin the process of unraveling it my mind. I will never know exactly how it impacted me, but have come to terms with this and other traumas as elements that have shaped my life and character for better or for worse – by God’s grace, mostly for better.
It’s very likely that I had seen the question in the past, but in a state of denial had dismissed it. Having a great sense of healing about me, I answered the question honestly this time around. “Yes”, but added the silent “…not by choice” in my own thoughts.
As some may have guessed and some may have known, when the screener reviewed my response to this question she informed me that this would put me on the “deferred list.” I was not able to give blood. Period. There is not a test, waiver, or other remedy in the FDA regulations right now. I fought back the tears as she explained this to me, old wounds ripping open again. She was incredibly sensitive and compassionate. She listened as I explained my answer, but her hands were tied.
I tried to go back to work and just barely made it to lunch without totally losing it. I quickly went from hurt to angry. Traditionally, I would have nowhere for this anger to “move.” Just as quickly as it came, it would have settled to guilt and depression. I decided to do something different and asked myself “why”? Why do I feel this anger and more to the point, why do these regulations exist?
I spent some quality time with Google and discovered, as I had suspected, the regulations date back to the Aids fears of the early 1980’s. Furthermore, the FDA has been empowered to make changes to them and are considering revisions to the donor screening process. I’m generally not the activist, letter-writing type, but my anger was pleading for motion. I wrote a letter addressed to the director of the FDA and our representatives in the U.S Congress and U.S. Senators. The letter urged them to use their office and influence to help in making the changes needed to bring the regulations up to date with modern scientific and technological developments. (It would be easy to rabbit-trail here, but I’m going to resist and not go in to the technical details.)
I don’t know what effect my letters will have on public policy (I did receive responses from the two Senators’ offices.) I do know the effect they had me: the gave my anger a purpose, somewhere productive to go; somewhere other than deep into my soul where it would have festered into fear and bitterness.
Putting some motion into emotion feels good (and keeps the blood pressure down)!