While I Was Blind, My Eyes Were Opened!
AS TOLD BY EGON HAUSER
After two months of literal blindness, I had my eyes opened to Biblical truths that I had ignored during my entire life.
WHEN I reflect back over more than seven decades, many aspects of my life give me much satisfaction. But if I could change one thing, I would choose to have known about Jehovah God much earlier.
I was born in 1927 in Uruguay, a small pear-shaped country situated between Argentina and Brazil and favored with miles of beautiful scenery along the Atlantic Coast. The population is primarily made up of the descendants of Italian and Spanish immigrants. My parents, however, were Hungarian immigrants, and when I was very young, we lived in a humble, yet close-knit, neighborhood. There was no need for locks on our doors or bars on our windows. Racial prejudice did not exist among us. Foreigners and natives, blacks and whites—we were all friends.
My parents were practicing Catholics, and I became an altar boy at the age of ten. As an adult, I worked with the local parish and was a member of a group acting as consultants to the bishop in the diocese. Having chosen the medical profession, I was invited to participate in a seminar in Venezuela organized by the Catholic Church. As medical doctors specializing in gynecology, our group was assigned to study the oral contraceptives that were being introduced on the market at that time.
Early Impressions as a Medical Student
When I was still a medical student learning about the human body, I became more and more impressed with the wisdom manifested in its design. For example, I was amazed at the body’s ability to heal itself and recover from trauma, such as when the liver or some ribs are able to grow back to normal size after being partially removed.
At the same time, I saw many victims of serious accidents, and I was saddened when they died because of having received blood transfusions. I remember to this day how difficult it was to talk to relatives of patients who had died because of complications with blood. Most of the time, the relatives were not told that a blood transfusion had caused their loved one’s death. Rather, they were given other reasons. Although many years have passed, I still remember my uneasy feelings about blood transfusions, and I finally came to the conclusion that there was something wrong with the practice. If only I had known then Jehovah’s law regarding the sanctity of blood! In that case, I might not have had that uncertainty about what I saw being practiced.—Acts 15:19, 20.
Satisfaction From Helping People
In time, I became a surgeon and director of a medical assistance center in Santa Lucía. I also had responsibilities at the National Institute of Biological Science. This gave me much satisfaction. I helped people with their sicknesses, relieved their physical suffering, in many cases saved lives, and brought new lives into the world by assisting mothers during childbirth. Because of my earlier experiences with blood transfusions, I avoided administering them and performed thousands of operations without blood. I reasoned that a hemorrhage is like a leak in a barrel. The only real solution is to repair the leak, not to keep filling the barrel.
Treating Witness Patients
My acquaintance with Jehovah’s Witnesses began in the 1960’s when they started coming to our clinic for bloodless surgery. I will never forget the case of one patient, a pioneer (full-time minister) named Mercedes Gonzalez. She was so anemic that doctors at the university hospital would not risk operating on her, feeling certain that she would not survive. Although she was losing blood, we operated on her at our clinic. The surgery was successful, and she continued pioneering for over 30 years until her recent death at the age of 86.
I was always impressed by the love and interest the Witnesses showed while taking care of their hospitalized Christian brothers. When making my rounds, I enjoyed listening to them talk about their beliefs, and I accepted the publications they offered me. It never entered my mind that soon I would be not only their doctor but also their spiritual brother.
I became more closely connected with the Witnesses when I married Beatriz, the daughter of a patient. Most of her family were already associating with the Witnesses, and after we were married, she too became an active Witness. I, on the other hand, was completely engrossed in my work and enjoyed a certain prominence in the medical field. Life seemed very good. Little did I know that my world was soon to collapse around me.
One of the worst things that can happen to a surgeon is to lose his eyesight. That happened to me. Suddenly, I suffered the rupture of both retinas—I was blind and had no way of knowing if my vision could be restored. After being operated on, I lay in bed with both eyes bandaged and fell into depression. I felt completely useless and empty to the point that I decided to end my life. Since I was on the fourth floor, I got out of bed and felt my way along the wall, trying to find the window. I was going to jump to my death. However, I ended up in the hospital hallway, and a nurse ushered me back to my bed.
I did not try that again. But in my world of darkness, I continued depressed and irritable. During this period of blindness, I made God a promise that if I could ever see again, I would read the Bible from cover to cover. Eventually, my sight was partially restored, and I could read. But I could not continue as a surgeon. Still, in Uruguay there is a popular expression “No hay mal que por bien no venga,” “Nothing is so bad that something good cannot come from it.” I was about to experience the truth of that saying.
Starting Off on the Wrong Foot
I wanted to buy the large-print edition of The Jerusalem Bible, but I learned that Jehovah’s Witnesses had a less expensive Bible, which a young Witness offered to deliver to my home. The following morning, he was standing at my front door with the Bible. My wife opened the door and spoke to him. I rudely yelled from the back of the house that if she had paid him for the Bible, he had no further reason to be in my home and should leave, which, needless to say, he promptly did. I had no idea that this same person would soon play a significant role in my life.
One day I made a promise to my wife that I was unable to fulfill. So to compensate and to make her happy, I said that I would go with her to the annual Memorial of Christ’s death. When the day arrived, I remembered my promise and attended the event with her. The friendly atmosphere and the kind welcome that I received impressed me. When the speaker began his talk, I was surprised to see that it was the same young man whom I had so impolitely asked to leave my house. His talk affected me deeply, and I felt very bad about treating him unkindly. How could I make up for it?
I asked my wife to invite him to dinner, but she suggested: “Don’t you think it would be more appropriate if you invited him? Just stay here, and he will approach us.” She was right. He came over to greet us and gladly accepted the invitation.
The conversation we had on the evening he came to visit was the beginning of many changes for me. He showed me the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life,* and I showed him six copies of that same book. Different Witness patients had given them to me at the hospital, but I had never read them. During and after the meal, far into the night, I asked question after question—all of which he answered using the Bible. The discussion lasted into the early hours of the following morning. Before leaving, the young man offered to study the Bible with me, using the Truth book. We finished studying that book in three months and continued with the book “Babylon the Great Has Fallen!” God’s Kingdom Rules!* After that, I dedicated my life to Jehovah God and was baptized.
Feeling Useful Again
As a result of literal blindness, ‘the eyes of my heart’ were opened to Bible truths that I had ignored until then! (Ephesians 1:18) Coming to know Jehovah and his loving purpose changed my entire life. Once again, I feel useful and happy. I help people both physically and spiritually and show them how to prolong their lives for a few more years in this system of things and for all eternity in the new.
I have kept up-to-date with medicine, and I have done research on blood risks, alternative treatments, patients’ rights, and bioethics. I have had opportunities to share this information with the local medical community when I have been invited to talk on these subjects at medical seminars. In 1994, I attended the first congress on bloodless therapy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and gave a talk on how to deal with hemorrhages. Part of that information was included in an article I wrote, “Una propuesta: Estrategias para el Tratamiento de las Hemorragias” (“A Strategic Proposition for Anti-Hemorrhagic Treatment”), published in the medical magazine Hemoterapia.
Integrity Under Pressure
In the beginning, my doubts about blood transfusions were largely based on scientific knowledge. However, when I myself became a hospital patient, I found it to be quite a different thing to refuse blood transfusions and maintain my faith in the face of strong pressure from doctors. After a massive heart attack, I had to explain my position to a surgeon for over two hours. He was the son of very good friends of mine and said that he would not let me die if he thought that a blood transfusion could save my life. I silently prayed to Jehovah, asking him to help this doctor understand and respect my position even if he did not agree with it. Finally, the doctor promised to respect my wishes.
On another occasion, I had to have a large tumor removed from the prostate gland. There was a hemorrhage. Once again, I found myself explaining the reasons for my refusal of blood transfusions, and although I lost two thirds of my blood, the medical staff respected my position.
A Change of Attitude
As a member of the International Association of Bioethics, I have had the satisfaction of seeing a change in the attitude of medical staffs and legal authorities toward patients’ rights. The doctors’ paternalistic attitude is being replaced by respect for informed consent. They now permit patients to share in the choice of treatment. Jehovah’s Witnesses are no longer thought of as fanatics who do not deserve medical attention. Rather, they are considered to be well-informed patients whose rights should be respected. At medical seminars and on television programs, well-known professors have said: “Thanks to the efforts of Jehovah’s Witnesses, we now understand . . .” “We have learned from the Witnesses . . .” and “They have taught us to improve.”
It has been said that life is important above all because freedom, liberty, and dignity would be meaningless without it. Many now accept a superior legal concept, recognizing that each individual is the owner of his own personal rights and is the only one who can decide which of his rights should have priority under any given circumstance. In this way, dignity, freedom to choose, and religious beliefs are given priority. The patient has autonomy. Hospital Information Services, set up by Jehovah’s Witnesses, has helped many doctors to progress in their understanding of these matters.
The continued support of my family has permitted me to be useful in Jehovah’s service and also to serve as an elder in the Christian congregation. As I have already stated, I regret most not having learned about Jehovah earlier in life. Still, I am very grateful that he opened my eyes to the wonderful hope of living under God’s Kingdom arrangement, where “no resident will say: ‘I am sick.’”—Isaiah 33:24.*
Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
While this article was being prepared, Brother Egon Hauser passed away. He died faithful, and we rejoice with him that his hope is sure.
[Picture on page 24]
In my 30’s, working at the hospital in Santa Lucía
[Picture on page 26]
With my wife, Beatriz, in 1995