.:NANCY’S STORY – How The Watchtower Policy On No Blood Transfusions Impacted My Family
er husband Kurt was only 32 years old, in excellent health and the father of four children, when a work-related accident burned 75% of his body. For five weeks as his red blood count dropped from the average 48% to only 5%, he struggled to survive in the hospital burn unit without the needed blood transfusion to carry oxygen to his organs. Doctors and medical reports confirm that he would have survived if he had received the transfusion. Was his death in vain?
My involvement as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses came about through my mother who became a Witness when I was very young. My mother is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and this group came along in the door-to-door ministry and professed a more hopeful life for her. But what this religion really did, over the course of more than 40 years, was to completely divide my family, including my parents who divorced 24 years ago. My mother has four children. The three of us who finally walked away, endured years of my mother’s shunning. Two of my brothers escaped before they considered committing suicide, and I walked away a year and a half after my husband Kurt’s death due to the Watchtower’s policy of not allowing blood transfusions. My oldest brother nearly committed suicide before separating himself from our entire family. Another one of my brothers has struggled with homosexuality, had been disfellowshipped for it, but has returned to the Watchtower organization and no longer speaks to any of us, and my youngest brother became very depressed and close to suicide before finally leaving the organization.
My husband died as a direct result of a lack of a blood transfusion. This was clearly stated in the report sent to me by the coroner after his death. My husband had a work related accident (explosion and fire). Over 75% of his body was burned and 50% of that was beyond 3rd degree—so deep they had to remove all the skin and fat layer beneath down to the muscle. I did not understand how a lack of a blood transfusion was related to his death until professionals in the burn unit explained it to me. Then, I did some research on my own and it confirmed what they had told me.
Basically, when a person has burns that go so deep over much of the body’s surface, it is like having a massive wound where all your white blood cells are rushing to the area, trying to protect and create a scab, but of course it cannot do so. As a result, while the person is bandaged head to toe and all the white blood cells are seeping out throughout all the wound sites, soaking the bandages, the blood count is continually dropping. A normal hematocrit reading ** for a man is between 45-52%. My husband’s hematocrit reading dropped to 5% before his major organs started shutting down.
Jehovah’s Witnesses often think that it is all just a matter of blood volume that results in death and they often resort to volume expanders for treatment, but these do not carry oxygen! So, once the blood count is that low and there are not enough cells carrying oxygen to the organs, organ failure sets in. First, my husband’s kidneys shut down. Dialysis was not an option either because a dialysis machine would have eaten up a number of blood cells before it really started doing its job. Kurt had none to spare. His liver was beginning to shut down next and his heart would be next. At that point, he was only breathing with a ventilator machine and his heart continued to beat due to the drugs being given. When they told me there was no hope, 5 weeks into being at the Colorado University Burn Unit, it was even too late to give him the life saving blood transfusions. I was asked to make the horrible decision to withdraw the life-support. No one should ever be put in that position. It is the most horrible place to be—especially when it did not have to end that way. My husband was only 32 yrs old, strong as an ox, and he would have been able to survive with the right treatment. I KNOW this without a doubt. The Burn Unit has had patients survive in worse shape than my husband was in. I met several of them, but my husband did not stand a chance without the blood he needed.
Looking back with 20/20 vision, of course, knowing all that I know now, I wish I had had the presence of mind to push the elders and others away and RISK whatever I thought the consequences would have been. I would do ANYTHING to be able to still have Kurt here with his children and me. Just three months after Kurt’s death, the elders disfellowshipped me simply because they did not approve of my conduct as a NEW WIDOW—namely, decisions on the funeral arrangements, close friendships with non-Jehovah’s Witness people, allowing these so-called “non-believers” to help in caring for my children (i.e., “bad association”). Never mind that their dad just died! Now, my closeness to one elder who was being supportive of us was considered bad conduct too!
After 18 months of NO SUPPORT SYSTEM at all, no friends, no family, newly widowed, trying to make a living and support my grieving family, I was reinstated, but things never went back to NORMAL. The loneliness I felt in a Kingdom Hall full of so-called “brothers” and “sisters,” every time I attended a meeting, was unbearable! And I always felt the constant scrutiny from elders who didn’t have a clue of the burden I carried. One of those burdens was the knowledge that I alone could have prevented my husband’s death. Since he was too drugged and too incoherent to make any decisions, if I had just said to the doctors, “GO AHEAD AND DO WHATEVER YOU NEED TO DO to save him,” he would still be here today.
If it hadn’t been for the fear of what actions I thought the elders would take against us, the brainwashing I had in believing my husband was making some kind of sacrifice in Jehovah’s name, giving a “witness” to all those doctors and nurses, I could have done something. My husband was not even active in the congregation at the time when all this happened. The elders that were dispatched to the hospital to act as liaisons with the doctors were soon notified of his standing in the congregation, and that he was not eligible for that kind of support from the Watchtower’s Hospital Liaison Committee. So, they decided to exert the same kind of control, but do it through me instead. I did not request this! At that time, I was considered spiritually weak, missing meetings, etc. So, in hindsight, I see that they placed themselves in a position of authority where they had no place to be. This was a personal family matter but by being a liaison between me and the doctors, they put themselves in a position of controlling whether a known member would receive a blood transfusion.
For the entire five weeks that my husband was in the hospital, there was always an elder or so-called “mature brother” hovering nearby. At one time, the doctor asked to speak with me alone in a conference room, but the elder present said that he must be in the meeting as well, not by my request. This elder did, in fact, make sure he was there to maintain the decision to not allow blood to be given to my dying husband. The burden I carry is because I know without a doubt that my husband, my children’s father, would be here today had it not been for the Jehovah’s Witness religion and their involvement and worst of all my going along with it, ultimately allowing his needless death.
I also carry this burden because I have researched the whole blood transfusion issue and found that the doctrine they teach has no Scriptural backing whatsoever. They compare it to the Scriptures that speak of eating blood and they interpret that to be the same as taking it intravenously. My research has proven that this is NOT the same. Jehovah’s Witnesses allow organ transplants and the Watchtower even admits that a blood transfusion is the same as a transplant! If you were unable to eat to keep nourished, you would be hooked up to IV fluids that would be consumed by your body for nutrition, but when you are given blood through an IV, your body DOES NOT CONSUME IT! A blood transfusion is a REPLACEMENT for the blood already lost just like an organ transplant would be to replace the failed organ! What makes this even more disturbing is the fact that, in recent years, the Watchtower has drastically changed its position on transfusions, thus making my husbands sacrificial death even more hurtful.
When the local paper reported about my husband’s death, the Jehovah’s Witness congregation responded by declaring to the paper that the choice of refusing or taking a blood transfusion was a “personal choice.” This is NOT true! It was never a “personal choice” for my husband or my family! We were burdened with a man-made law, and threatened with the consequence of displeasing Jehovah by the elders who claimed that they would take disciplinary action against us (being “marked” or “disfellowshipped”) if we allowed the transfusion. This coercion kept us from taking the life saving measure of allowing a blood transfusion to save my husband’s life.
In the past year, I have gone from being an Ex-Jehovah’s Witness who walked away from the religion to an Ex-Jehovah’s Witness who speaks out loudly against their tyranny and control. The more I research and understand, the more I realize what a WACKO CULT-like religion they really are—all man made rules and doctrines, all with the purpose of separating themselves from the rest of the world as different, not right, just different. They prey upon the vulnerable and slowly gain control of their powers of critical thinking until they are all like little sheep being led astray. CRITICAL THINKING is important to all persons everywhere, to make thoughtful choices, to question, to understand. This group does not accept individuals that think, and once you are noted as one, they will find the quickest way to remove you and try to discredit and humiliate you.
I am thankful that I GOT OUT!! I wish it had been sooner so my life would still include my late husband and so that I may have enjoyed many of the years past more than I did. I have wished many times that there was a way to make the Watchtower Bible And Tract Society pay for this gross injustice, to make an example of their coercion. I have yet to find a way, but now I enjoy feeling FREE! Not to do things wrong or things they morally prohibited, but FREE TO BE ME!! And to actually like who I am and the mother I have become. I miss my husband every day—life will always be less without him. My youngest brother recently got married and we both wept for Kurt not being there with us. He has missed so much and our children have missed him so much, and so have I. He can never be replaced. I am still a widow alone, watching my children grow up and move on to their own lives. No man has ever been able to fill my husband’s shoes and probably never will. My hope is that I’m able to help even ONE person from being manipulated and taken over by this outrageous but stealthy group.
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** The hematocrit is the section of the blood count that rates the proportion of red blood cells to total blood volume.