The Decision That Saved Her Life
I’LL never forget Saturday, November 6, 1976. The place was Scotland Neck, North Carolina. I had been looking forward to getting out and sharing in the distribution of the Kingdom News tract “Why So Much Suffering—if God Cares?” But I woke up sick.
Waking up sick was not unusual, because, for the past three months, I had had spells of sickness due to internal bleeding. Our family doctor said that I needed an operation, but that I needed to be built up physically first. Then, about seven o’clock that evening, the hemorrhaging increased until finally I collapsed. I soon regained consciousness. My husband rushed me to the hospital hoping that the bleeding could somehow be stopped.
In the emergency room the doctor discovered that I had a tumor that was causing the hemorrhaging. He said that it needed to be removed immediately. But then real trouble started. There in the emergency room I twice went into shock because of the loss of blood. My heart stopped beating for a few seconds, and the doctor worked feverishly to resuscitate me. Soon I regained consciousness, and the doctor and nurses heard me whispering, “no blood, no blood.” They knew then that I must be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The doctor thought that perhaps I did not understand the seriousness of the situation and told me that if I did not take blood I would die. He said that he could not attempt to operate with my blood volume so low. But I stayed firm about God’s law and quoted the scriptures at Genesis 9:4 and Acts 15:20, 28, 29. There the Bible says: “Blood—you must not eat,” and “keep abstaining . . . from blood.”
I told the doctor that if I did die, dying was not the worst thing that could happen to a person. He appealed to my husband, but my husband told him that he, too, was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and believed as I did. An elder in our congregation was called.
The nurse assisting with the phone call told the elder: “She cannot live without packed cells [blood]. She is bleeding badly right now. It is just a matter of time. It is like having a child stand in the highway with a truck coming. You know what is going to happen.” When my husband and I continued to refuse a blood transfusion, the doctor administered some blood expanders and went home.
The elder from our congregation came to the hospital, and he and my husband called the doctor to try to convince him to return and operate. The doctor hesitated, saying: “Really, what is there to talk about? She is too weak to survive the operation.” But my husband and the elder explained that all of us would appreciate his coming over to do whatever he could without blood. Then, if death occurred, he would not be held accountable.
The doctor said that we all failed to understand the gravity of the situation. He said that I had almost died in the emergency room and that, with my continuing to lose blood, death was fairly certain. He said that to put a patient in my condition under anesthesia would only hasten death. “Since she is already dying,” he continued, “what you want me to do is take her into the operating room and finish her off.”
But then there was an abrupt change in his line of argument. “But I’ll do it,” he said, meaning that he would do his best. The elder assured him that this was the wish of both the family and myself. “Yes, I know that,” the doctor answered. “She’s cool about all of this. She’s up there dying, and I’m the one doing the worrying.”
Most of the doctors in that particular hospital decline to treat Jehovah’s Witnesses if they foresee problems involving refusal of permission to use blood. So it was of interest when the doctor next said: “I have often wondered what I would do in a situation like this. Now here it is. If we operate, at least we will be doing something.”
It was about five o’clock in the morning. He summoned the surgical team. The anesthesiologist appeared, and after verifying that I knew what I was requesting he immediately began preparing for the operation with no argument or objection. That was a relief!
Just before I was wheeled out of the room, the doctor came by again. He said: “Now you know you are asking me to operate with one hand tied behind me.” I told him to go ahead and Jehovah would look after me. I had confidence that even if I should die I would come back in the resurrection of the dead.
In about two hours the operation was over and the doctor came out to talk with my family. He said: “Thus far she is doing all right. I think we did the right thing. I am not sure that we got all the bleeders tied off because her blood volume was so low it is difficult to tell. But she is doing as well as can be expected.” Then to the happy surprise of my family, he added: “I believe Jehovah was helping me in there.”
After four days of being in critical condition, I was transferred to a regular hospital room. After a few more days I was released. When I went back for a checkup one month after the operation, my blood count was normal. We all thanked this surgeon for his helpfulness. The following is part of a letter he later wrote to the elder in our congregation:
“Thank you for your recent letter with respect to Mrs. Christine Smith. Hers certainly was an amazing case. She was a very strong and determined woman, and both you and her relatives furnished her beautiful support.
“Thank you very much for helping me to have a better understanding of the faith of you and your people. I believe the experience with Mrs. Smith will improve my judgment when dealing with a Jehovah’s Witness in the future.”
Through it all a good witness regarding our Christian faith was given. Now, thanks to Jehovah’s help, I am back at meetings with his people and active in his service.—Contributed.
“Indeed toward God wait silently, O my soul, because from him is my hope. Indeed he is my rock and my salvation, my secure height; I shall not be made to totter. Upon God are my salvation and my glory. My strong rock, my refuge is in God. Trust in him at all times, O people. Before him pour out your heart. God is a refuge for us.”—Ps. 62:5-8.