The collection was just a fascination for staff until Tuesday, the family says, when Gibson showed up to his regular appointment in Port St. Lucie with another Trump likeness. This one was life-size.
A social worker told him in the lobby that it had to go, Gibson says. “This is not a Trump rally,” he claims she said.
Now, his family is fighting with the dialysis center over whether Gibson can bring the giant cutout they say is his emotional support — a reminder he’s watched over by the president who at this month’s State of the Union speech touted a plan to improve kidney care.
They’ve taken to local news and social media to accuse the clinic of censorship, as it tries to get Gibson back for the three-times-a-week dialysis he says he has skipped for a week.
Experts warn that even one missed treatment brings serious risks. But Gibson told The Washington Post on Friday that he is holding out and will go to the hospital if he starts having health issues.
Fresenius Kidney Care said it just wants reasonable limits on what people bring to treatment.
“We strongly support the ability of all our patients to express their views, including bringing personal items into our clinics that provide comfort,” Robert Kossmann, chief medical officer for Fresenius Medical Care North America, said in a statement. “At the same time, we must maintain the safety and quality standards required within our clinics."
Items cannot impede staff’s line of sight and workflow or create “infection control issues” and other hazards, he said.
Kossmann emphasized that stopping regular dialysis can be life-threatening.
“It is our number one priority to ensure all our patients receive the treatments they need and we are committed to supporting them to do so,” he said.
By the Gibsons’ account, no one at the dialysis center protested the small Trump picture, the swag or the miniature cutout, which the patient says he has been bringing in for almost a year.
“The staff at the facility, they loved it,” his son Eric Gibson told The Post. “They thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. They were taking pictures of it; they just loved the uniqueness.”
There were also no complaints about the life-size likeness when Nelson Gibson first brought it on Feb. 8, the family said. Then, on Tuesday morning, it was turned away.
Gibson says he walked out of the lobby without a word, leading his son to later seek out an explanation of Fresenius Kidney Care’s rationale. Hours later, Eric posted on Facebook that he’d be appearing on evening news to discuss a “Violation of Free Speech regarding President Donald Trump."
Eric Gibson points to the social worker’s alleged statements on Tuesday as evidence his father is being singled out, despite the center’s earlier embrace of the other Trump paraphernalia. He added that he doesn’t buy the safety arguments he heard later from staff and argued the cardboard figure would sit out of the way, posing no hazard.
His father contends other patients are allowed to bring more disruptive items. One person passes the time popping bubble wrap, he said.
As the dust-up makes headlines, staff at Fresenius Kidney Care have been calling and asking Nelson Gibson to come back, according the family. But they say he won’t return until he gets a guarantee that the cardboard Trump can come, too.
“He believes that God had placed Trump in his path to help him along this journey,” Eric Gibson said.
Asked if they have considered in-home dialysis — which the president sought to promote last year in an executive order — the Gibsons said they prefer professional treatment. There are other centers around, they acknowledged, but they say they don’t think they’re as good.
Are they worried about Nelson’s health? Yes, they say, but they’re trying to make the facility change its mind.
And maybe, the Gibsons said, the president himself will take note.