‘Our Son Is a Beautiful Colour Now’
OUR son Jonathan is one of twins. When he and his little sister, Abigail, were born, Abigail was perfectly healthy, but Jonathan had serious problems—extensive congenital defects of the heart.
Our local doctor said that Jonathan would be disabled within two years, and eventually he would die. An operation might clear up the problems, but then again Jonathan might not survive it. And since the doctor knew we took seriously the Bible command to “abstain . . . from blood,” and hence would not accept blood transfusions, he told us we would not be able to find a surgeon to do the operation anyway.—Acts 15:20.
As Jonathan grew older, he was often short of breath. His little heart used to beat hard at the slightest exertion, and the purple colour in his cheeks and under his fingernails and toenails told us that he really needed the operation; otherwise he might not live much longer. In time we got in touch with one of Britain’s most eminent surgeons who, with his specialist team, was willing to undertake the necessary open-heart surgery without using blood.
We arrived in London on a Thursday, but we had to wait for more than a week for Jonathan’s operation. He was now just four years old. On the Wednesday before the operation, we had an interview with a haematologist. About a year before, he had been involved in the case of one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who had undergone an open-heart operation that was performed without blood. So we asked him what he thought of our stand regarding blood.
To our surprise, he did not oppose it. Why? He could see how important it was to our faith. He also mentioned that blood is more difficult to get now. People are not as prepared to give it as they once were, so it is expensive. Besides, he said, blood transfusions sometimes cause hepatitis. So some surgeons are now learning to operate with less blood on hand than they used to.
When we asked what was Jonathan’s chance of coming through his operation, the answer was: “You are fortunate because you have one of the best surgeons in the world. Also, you have your God, and I am sure he will answer your prayers for your son.” This haematologist happened to be contacted at his home that same week by one of Jehovah’s Witnesses engaged in the preaching ministry. The doctor told the Witness about our son and said: “I want you to go home and pray for little Jonathan.”
However, while we were waiting for the operation, there were comments of the other kind, too. For example, the hospital physician came around the ward visiting the young patients. She was accompanied by about 20 foreign doctors who were delegates to a conference on heart surgery being held that week. When she reached Jonathan’s bed she asked the other doctors whether they would accept the case of one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and operate without blood. They all said, No, they would not do it. It would be too difficult. You can imagine how that made us feel.
Thursday, the night before the operation, Jonathan was visited by an Australian surgeon. He was very kind and gently explained to us the seriousness of the operation that Jonathan was about to undergo. He said: “I give Jonathan a 50/50 chance of pulling through.”
He also asked us if it would be possible to take some of Jonathan’s blood and store it for use in case of possible emergencies. Then he himself said, “No, we can’t do that, can we? That would be against your conscience.” When we said, “That’s right,” he went on: “Anyway, if we did that, there would be no guarantee that the blood used would be Jonathan’s blood!”
Before the operation, Jonathan’s blood count was checked and found to be 15, which was very good under the circumstances. That was not surprising, however. Some time before, when we knew the operation would have to take place, we had noted the recommendation in the booklet Blood, Medicine and the Law of God that the blood count should be built up before an operation. We wrote to our general practitioner and received a prescription for iron medicine for Jonathan. We had given him this for the previous two and a half months.
Thursday evening, after kissing Jonathan good night, we went to bed, discussed together verse by verse Psalm 116 and prayed earnestly to Jehovah before trying to sleep. Fully aware of Jonathan’s danger, we were not asking for miracles. If things went wrong, we knew that Jonathan could die, and if that were to happen, we had full faith that we would see him again in the resurrection.
Our son was due in the operating room at eight o’clock on Friday morning, so at seven o’clock we arrived at the hospital and stayed with him until he was prepared to go into the theatre.
At one-thirty that afternoon we were back at the hospital, but Jonathan was not out of the operating theatre. At two-thirty we asked again, and he was still in the theatre. Three o’clock, three-thirty and four o’clock passed. Still no news. He had been in there now for eight hours. Finally, at 4:15 p.m., we called the nurse and she said: “Wait a minute, I have to get the sister.” We had a sinking feeling, sure we were going to hear bad news. Then the sister came on the line and said: “We’ve got good news for you. Jonathan has come through the operation and he is in the recovery room!”
At five o’clock we were allowed to see him. He was conscious but looked awful with all the tubes and wires attached to him. However, he was alive, and in a faint voice he said to us: “I want to get out of here!” After the short visit, we thanked Jehovah that his first big hurdle was over.
Of course, the danger was not completely past. One possible source of problem was that the surgeon had inserted catheters into Jonathan’s body to drain excess fluid, and these had to be removed. Seemingly, there is some danger in this procedure. However, when Jonathan’s drains were removed, we were told that he did not lose a drop of blood. Another big hurdle was behind him.
The hospital domestic staff, too, were interested in Jonathan’s case. They tended to be opposed to our decision not to allow the use of blood. Two Spanish girls who are Jehovah’s Witnesses worked among them, and they came under a lot of pressure. The women they worked with were saying how cruel we were to let Jonathan die! However, when Jonathan recovered, they became more friendly and helpful.
Blood transfusions became quite a topic of conversation. The mother of another little patient, a girl, said: “Could you tell me if my little girl had blood? I hope she was like Jonathan and did not have any. We don’t want any complications.”
That week, too, we met a young Muslim couple whose little boy had serious problems. They were very religious and each time one of the tiny patients was taken down to the theatre, they prayed for him. They wanted to know why Jonathan was looking so well after having such a dangerous operation.
Of course, all we could say was that we were immensely grateful for the skill of the whole medical team, and especially that they had consented to do the operation without blood. We started to explain: “As Jehovah’s Witnesses we do not accept blood . . .” But the husband cut us short and asked: “Why don’t you accept blood?” We showed him from the Bible where Christians were commanded to abstain from blood and gave him some Bible literature. He asked who had operated on Jonathan, and we told him. So he said that since his son would need another operation he was going to approach Jonathan’s surgeon and ask him to do it, if possible.
Jonathan had other problems to overcome. But his own spirit, the skill of the doctors, the care of the hospital staff, the prayers of our friends and especially the strength that Jehovah gave carried the three of us through. After six weeks in London, we returned home.
It was a difficult experience. For four years, we had watched Jonathan suffer. Now, we are grateful to have a healthy son. When Jonathan runs upstairs, if we put our hand on his heart we cannot feel anything abnormal. Each day we see him gaining strength. He is smaller than Abigail, but he’s growing! The purple has gone—he is a beautiful colour now.—As told by Simon and Brenda Pitts.
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Jonathan would be disabled within two years, and eventually he would die
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“I give Jonathan a 50/50 chance of pulling through”
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“Why don’t you accept blood?”