It’s the 1920s a young man is heading to the hospital.
As soon as he arrives, he’s rushed into surgery.
A damp towel is draped over his head.
An incision is made on his wrist, an artery exposed.
But this man, he’s not the actual patient beside him.
Doctors are more concerned with someone else in the next bed over surgeons hover over a still body.
Seemingly unconscious a doctor turns back to the young man, grabs his arm and connects is exposed artery to the unresponsive Patient.
Next to him arm to arm, the young man’s blood begins to flow into the lifeless.
It’s a desperate attempt at Revival.
Alas, it doesn’t work the patient parishes surgeons.
Do the young man’s wrist, back up.
And as he walks out of the hospital, he’s told to take time to heal before coming back for his next appointment that whole experience.
You’ll get paid $50 for it because he is a professional blood donor.
This used to be a real job.
Professional blood donors were like walking.
Blood bags, waiting to be hooked up to a patient in crisis like getting blood fresh from the tab until we figured out how to safely store blood, that’s when things changed and not always for the better from gimlet media.
This is not past it.
It a show about the stories.
We can’t quite leave behind every episode.
We take a moment from that very same week in history and tell you the story of how it shaped our world.
I’m Simone palana and on March 15 1937, 86 years ago this week, a new kind of Bank opened in the US.
A bank that wouldn’t deal out money, it would deal out, blood blood banks with helped to revolutionize medicine, Listen, save, countless lives and make complex new surgeries possible.
But who could put blood in those Banks who couldn’t and why that has its own complicated history.
One that will look at through an event that happened in the not so distant past, that’s after the break.
A warning to our listeners.
This episode contains descriptions of gun violence, so please take care while listening.
For Brandon Wolfe June 11th. 2016 was a typical Saturday in Orlando, Florida, and I was folding laundry and watching TV.
It was the summer day.
And so, I spent some time by the pool.
I fell asleep and a lounge chair.
And when the day was winding to a close, I did the most normal thing, I texted my best friends and asked if they wanted to go and get a drink Brandon and his friends, Drew and Juan decided on one of their favorite Club.
ABS pulse, it was an obvious choice.
I’ve moved to Orlando from Portland Oregon.
When I was just 19 or 20 years old and at that point, I hadn’t really experienced life as an out-and-proud queer person.
There were still a lot of spaces that I had to move in stealth or at least try to move in stealth and pulse was one of the first places where I could let go of that.
It’s one of the first places where, you know, I held hands with someone without looking over my shoulder first.
It’s one of the first places I ever wore a really skinny Pair of jeans without being afraid of what people would call me.
Brandon and his friends had spent many nights at Pulse dancing and chatting with other regulars until the wee hours when they arrived that night.
There was already a long line out, the door, the same frustrated drag queen, that was always there to snatch my five dollars.
That the front door was there that night, there was this beaded, doorway that you would part to go into the main dance floor and we sauntered through and across the really packed dance floor was Latin night, which meant the Rain dance floor was all Spanish music and the music was as loud as it ever was.
After grabbing drinks, they beeline to their spot on the patio taking in the fresh air and each other’s company.
It was around 2:00 in the morning that we, we had the realization that we were a little too old to be closing a club and so Drew, and his partner one.
We’re just going to finish One Last Dance.
I was going to step in and and use the bathroom and then we would call an Uber and go home.
I remember stepping into the bathroom.
And I distinctly remember the first sound of gunshots.
I remember the hairs standing up on the back of my neck.
I remember a dozen people, whose faces?
I wouldn’t recognize today and names.
I never knew rushing into the bathroom and I remember the decision to run locking arms with these people that I didn’t know and making a Sprint for it.
I remember desperately wishing, I got a chance to say goodbye to my parents because I didn’t think I was going to get out of there that night and then I remember the door flinging open.
There was the stench of blood and smoke still burning the inside of my nose.
There were people running and screaming but there was a sense of relief because there I was standing in a parking lot.
And I also remember how fleeting that sense of relief was when it struck me?
That my best friend’s my brother’s Drew and Juan both of whom individually.
Had secretly told me, they were going to propose to one another.
We’re standing in the middle of the dance floor underneath their favorite disco ball which was directly in that man’s line of fire.
America is just now coming to grips with what unfolded here in the early morning hours here in Orlando a massacre at a gay night.
Right here, Drew and one were among the forty, nine people shot and killed at pulse on June 12, 2016.
Immediately after the shooting wounded survivors, were rushed to nearby hospitals, people needed surgeries, and they also needed something else.
Blood the need is real.
The need is urgent as right now.
And we are really urging those folks with a specific blood types of.
Please come out.
But a lot of the people who were most eager to donate their blood men in the queer community.
In Orlando, they weren’t allowed to give and the reason for that, it all connects back to the history of this life-saving practice.
The earliest recorded blood transfusions were between animals and 17th century Britain a physician and the Royal Court demonstrated that a small dog after being drained of blood could be rescued by giving it the blood from a larger dog.
And almost immediately, we started putting the blood of animals into humans like the blood of lambs into feverish young men.
Physician saw animal blood as a cure for many illnesses.
Is some even believed the temperaments of the animal mattered that those qualities were transferred through the blood.
They thought, you know?
Like if I inject myself with the blood of a lion then I shall be strong and courageous like a lion.
It’s like, no, it doesn’t work that way.
This is Sarah, Chim, she’s written about how the history of Law and Medicine have shaped u.s. culture.
Sarah says that when people were given animal blood surprise, surprise.
Many times they died, even when we stopped and thought, hey, maybe we shouldn’t do that.
People should get people.
Blood patients would still sometimes die.
You know, people can figure out why sometimes it worked.
And sometimes someone died in horrible pain, you would think.
Old blood looks the same.
So why can’t I put my blood into you?
Like, it’s all the same blood is blood.
It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that a scientist in Austria, realized that not all blood was compatible.
There were actually different types, you know, type A type B.
It wasn’t important observation because turns out, if you mix blood of different types it’s gonna agglutinate.
Which means it’s going to it’s going to clog, which means your blood is no longer liquid.
It’s like curdled milk.
And it can’t pump and you die, a very painful death. understanding these differences in blood types, made blood, transfusions safer and more popular, enter the professional blood donors, who we heard about at the top of the show, they would travel around with little booklets almost like passports with their photo and blood type but blood from a professional donor was expensive and when a patient couldn’t afford it it became a frantic search for a friend or family member of Your blood type.
So scientists around the world had been working to figure out how to store blood to keep it fresh uncontaminated.
And then, in the 1930s, a doctor in Chicago named Bernard, fantasies had an idea for a system to collect blood at a hospital and they’d store that blood in a fridge to have ready and on hand no more need for professional donors.
No more last-minute scramble to match blood types.
He called it the blood bank and the idea would really take off.
I’m the manager of a Savings Bank.
Branches all over the country.
This is an early ad for blood banks.
That lays out the concept.
In fact, I’ll V contain something much more valuable.
They contain flasks of life-giving, blood and plasma.
Back in the 1930s, these blood banks and hospitals work differently than the blood banks of today.
It was kind of like a, take a penny, leave a penny situation.
If you were a patient and desperate need, there was blood on hand waiting for you already blood type to match and you wouldn’t have to worry about a big fee.
You couldn’t pay instead once you recovered, you are expected to replace the blood.
You took replenish the bank with your own blood or you.
Could convince your friends or family to do it for you.
And then in 1941, this whole idea of what it meant to give blood would radically change again, when the u.s. entered World War Two, all of this publicity materials and give blood, give blood, it’s your American duty to give blood.
We’re talking about blood coming in from every corner of the country.
Blood was no longer something to be purchased or treated.
It was to be given voluntarily.
Blood donations became a patriotic call and the American Red Cross took charge of collecting it asking Everyday People to roll up their sleeves and send their blood plasma to soldiers overseas.
One poster from this time shows a fallen soldier.
Receiving care from a medic, a needle in his arm is hooked to a bag of blood, plasma hanging on a propped up rifle.
The poster reads, he gave his blood will you give your URS.
Even actor, Humphrey Bogart, spoke out in a short film report from the front, where that gift of our blood to our men and administered by the medical Corps is collected by Red Cross blood banks.
The Red Cross is at their side and the Red Cross is you Soon, we started turning to blood banks for everything chemo treatments surgeries emergency transfusions and to stock all that blood.
We relied on people volunteering.
It’s a beautiful idea, literally giving a part of yourself to help someone else, but being able to even give blood at all as a privilege that not everyone has the FDA regulations were very straightforward.
If you Had sex with another man, you were not eligible to donate.
That’s after the break.
Welcome back before the break.
We traveled back to a time when professional blood donors were paid to go under the knife but thankfully that changed advancements.
Made blood donation, a simpler process and as medical professionals discovered safe storage methods.
Blood banks turned into a system that relied on volunteers to donate a system that in 2016 was being strained and the aftermath of a mass shooting at the ooh, nightclub pulse in Orlando, Florida as news outlets called for donors to come in line started growing outside of blood banks.
People wanted to volunteer, they wanted to do something to help hundreds of people lining up all day long to donate their own blood after.
So much Bloodshed Brandon Wolfe who lost his friends that night remembers hearing about those lines, some people standing in line or being sent home.
And being told, they can’t donate but also, that people from his community, we’re getting turned away from the banks.
I remember the Deep frustration that popped up immediately as soon as people got in line and learned some for the first time that they were not eligible to donate blood simply because they identify as gay or bisexual men, you had a number of gay men here, who showed up, wanting to give blood and remember this is the same community that It was attacked at that nightclub so they had a special interest in trying to help in any way they could.
Then the end were turned away because they were told I’m sorry you don’t qualify the law does not allow you to give plot of this point and submitted These restrictions on blood donations traced back to an FDA policy that started in the 80s with the AIDS crisis hospitals, were overflowing awards were just full of people with all kinds of complications and people who couldn’t go home and didn’t have anywhere to go.
This is dr.
Chris speier, ER, today, he’s an infectious disease, epidemiologist and director of the Duke Global Health Institute but in the early 80s, Chris was a medical student at SUNY.
Downstate in Brooklyn.
He remembers scores of young men.
Coming into Kings County Hospital with weakened immune systems.
Initially, we didn’t have any testing at all, you just made the diagnosis of AIDS based on clinical, you know, outcomes of patients in the early days of the AIDS crisis.
There were a lot of unknowns doctors didn’t know what the virus was how to test for it or how it was transmitted but the clinical outcomes were Certain and they were dire.
This was personal for Chris not just as a medical student.
I’m a gay man and I’m from New York.
So I was, of course, very aware from the very beginning of what was happening.
I think everybody who lived through that will remember at that it turned out that half the gay men in New York were already infected with HIV and it was 50/50.
And in our case I was - and my, Partner was positive.
Chris’s partner, Ed studied at Julliard, he was an actor and a model tall, dark and handsome and deeply loving as Chris describes him and somewhere along the way.
He had contracted the virus people.
I went to medical school with tell me that they remember me saying, I’m so worried about it and, you know, and I remember remember like once he was asleep like palpating his lymph nodes and just feeling out huge, there were the medication that Ed needed, ended up making him even sicker, unlike many AIDS patients.
He needed blood transfusions but there was a problem.
People were afraid to give blood there was a huge need for blood and people were not willing because they were scared to have anybody put a needle in their arm and a lot of the people who were willing were banned from donating, In 1983 after it had become clear that HIV was transmitted through blood.
The FDA had changed their donation regulations.
Men who had sex with men after 1977 the start of the epidemic, according to the FDA would be indefinitely, banned from donating blood.
By the way, that’s the fda’s wording.
Men who have sex with men and when they say men are referring to sex assigned at Birth the policy overlooks, the existence of transgender and gender non-conforming.
People other groups were removed from the blood donor pool to like commercial sex workers and injection drug users and because it was thought that the epidemic originated in Haiti Haitians who had emigrated after 1970.
Seven were also banned from donating.
And it’s worth noting that this is not the first time we’ve questioned, who can donate blood at the start of World War two.
Black people were turned away from donating their blood to soldiers.
Abroad after protesters objected donations were taken, but blood was segregated by race and some states until the 1970s the ban on gay men, donating blood made sense to crispier in the 80s at least from a medical perspective Without reliable HIV testing of blood.
It seemed too risky but also the band was drafted during a time when the gay community was being demonized, by the highest court in the country in 1986 at the peak of the AIDS crisis, the Supreme Court had upheld sodomy laws ruling that the constitution does not protect the right of gay adults to engage in private, consensual sex.
And it just, you know, it was felt so terrible to still be criminalized, you know.
So, you know that’s that’s a part of this.
This is none of these things happen in a vacuum and this is not, you know, medical decision making in a neutral k+ society.
That is not what it was.
And that is not how it felt.
Chris’s partner Ed passed away, right?
As Chris was finishing his residency before.
The development of medical advancements.
I could have saved him.
Meanwhile the conversation around Blood Donor eligibility raged on word in 1990, after huge protests in the Haitian, American Community, the FDA lifted its ban on blood from Haitians but men who had sex with men were still banned from donating today, things have changed quite a bit.
We’ve developed more sensitive tests to detect HIV in blood donations all banks.
Now test their blood for HIV and little by little, the FDA has adjusted its policy they did.
So, in 2015, found a total victory for these activists, however, major restrict changed it again in 2020.
The FDA is again lessening the restriction on gay and bisexual men.
These days if you’re a man who has sex with men, you must be abstinent.
For three months before you’re able to donate.
But lgbtq rights groups criticized.
The way the FDA continues to Target a group of people rather than screening for individual Behavior.
Just this year though, the FDA announced a draft of new guidelines that would change that.
They proposed a new questionnaire to screen potential donors.
So if you don’t know your HIV status instead of asking are you a man and do you have sex with men as it basically does.
Now gender and sexuality wouldn’t matter everyone.
Regardless of gender identity would be asked specific questions about risky sexual.
Have you had any new sexual partners in the last three months?
If so, have you had anal sex?
The focus on anal sex is because there’s a higher risk of blood exchange than with vaginal sex under the new proposed.
Guidelines people who are hiv-positive still, wouldn’t be able to donate neither would people on antiviral prep medications, because those medications may make HIV more difficult to detect when testing blood.
That’s a lot of people who still can’t donate, but it’s a step forward.
The guidelines are based on a recent study part of which was conducted in Orlando, Florida and Brandon Wolfe, who survived the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub participated.
He’d never donated blood before he headed into his local, lgbtq Center sat down and despite a fear of needles, he got his blood drawn.
Honestly, I got a little bit emotional.
I thought about all the people who came before me.
Me all the people who lost their lives in the HIV and AIDS epidemic and their friends and their families who had to bury people too soon.
You know, everyone who’s been impacted by the policies that stemmed from that epidemic and I thought about our potential for change, it is encouraging to see a step towards more Equitable and more scientific regulations, especially, considering that we still need blood in the bank.
Just last year, the American Red Cross declared its first-ever National blood crisis, blood shortages mean, hospitals have to decide which surgeries and procedures to prioritize, some of these things they can plan for, but there are also the things they can’t like acts of mass violence.
It takes to pick up the pieces after word that can get lost in the headlines.
It wasn’t just a number.
It wasn’t just 49 people who were shot and killed at Pulse Nightclub.
Those were our friends.
Those were our family members, A gunman filled with hatred poured, over a hundred and ten rounds from an assault rifle into one of the safest spaces I have ever known.
And my best friends took 19 of those rounds. 110, mass shootings, have occurred in the US this year, according to the gun violence archive.
And the year has only just begun.
By the time we published this episode, there’s a chance that number will have already gone up.
It’s a tragedy and it’s also a Public Health crisis.
Brandon is still waiting for politicians and Regulators to connect the dots.
It is a Spotify original produced by gimlet and zsp media, this episode was produced by Nick, Delle Rose.
Next week, we’re bringing you the story of bass Reeves from our friends at solved, murders, True Crime, Mysteries, the rest of our team, our producers Olivia, Briley and row me Philip.
Our associate producer, is Laura Newcombe are in, turn is Jasper.
The supervising producer is Erica Morrison editing by Liza Yeager Andrea.
Be Scott is our - editor fact-checking by Ian.
Michael sound design and mixing by Emma Monger original music, by Sachs kicks, Ave Willie, Green, Jay bless, and Bobby Lord.
Our theme song as Toko Liana by Coco, Co with music supervision by Liz Fulton, technical Direction by Zach Schmidt show art by Elysee Harvin and Talia Rahman.
The executive producer at CSP media is Zach Stewart Ponte the executive producer from gimlet is Matt schulze, special thanks to dr.
Susan letterer, and to Lydia, pull green Abbie ruzicka.
Dan Behar Jen, hon, Emily wiedemann and Liz Styles follow not past it now to listen for free exclusively on Spotify, click the Bell next to the follow button to get notifications for new episodes while you’re there.
Hey why don’t you read us 5 Stars?
You can follow me on Twitter at Simone.
Plannin, thanks for hanging.
We’ll see you next week.
There were huge drives in the lesbian community.
Cuz, you know, gay women were not affected by HIV but they were part of our community and watching all these young guys died and that really helped with that problem.