Monday, April 22, 2013

"No Blood" Can Mean Consequences of a Different Type

I was raised a Jehovah's Witness for better part of 20 years and, luckily, never had to face a life-threatening event. However, I do have a few incidents in my life in which I had to confront their teachings about blood transfusions and blood products.

1) There was a girl about 10 years older than me that was in a severe car accident when she was 16-17. She came from a family of farmers and they were all out in the fields on machinery at the time. She was rushed to the hospital and given several pints of blood to save her life. She suffered severe brain damage and had to relearn everything in life, even walking. Her mental faculties are those of a 10-12 year and she bears many scars. Even with all the mental and physical suffering, she survives today.

Growing up though, I noticed she was not treated the same. At first I thought she was just born disabled or something and a little slow. When I learned of the accident, I was told that she had taken in blood and this was part of the punishment - to be forever scarred and afflicted. She was forced to sit away from everyone, normally in the back row. Sometimes her mother would sit with her, often times not. She was never allowed to participate during the Watchtower discussion or help with the theocratic school discussions. This bothered me a lot. It's horrible stuff to teach a 8-yr. old.

2) When I was 26 and was trying to tear myself away from the religious bonds that had a hold on me, my Dad suffered a heart attack. While in the hospital filling out his information, the nurse came to me with his wallet. She said, "He said to give you this and to get his "No Blood Card," please." I was horrified at what this meant. I had forgotten all about it and was only concerned about getting my Dad the help he needed. This changed everything and almost stopped the medical help being given because he needed surgery. He needed a triple bypass and stents placed in at least 2 of his coronary arteries, a procedure that can require blood at any time.

One of the doctors finally came up with the idea of using serum albumins as a type of blood volume expander (BVE). After a little research, my Dad and "an Elder" agreed that this would acceptable as there are no "blood" materials in blood expanders. My Dad had to consult with an Elder from the Kingdom Hall before making a decision that would save his life! Really? The expanders were indeed needed and he came out with 3 stents and a small scar. That was all I could ask for.

Had that item not been available, none of the doctors or the anesthesiologist would have signed off or proceeded with the surgery. I fully understand that they want to have all the tools available to them in case anything arises but this almost cost him his life. All this because of a belief that blood is sacred and, once it leaves the body, it is never to return. Not even if it's your own donated blood would they consider donating for just such a purpose.

I have no idea what would have happened had there not been blood volume expanders. But the pressure and stress of "No Blood" was almost too much.

3) In early 2011 with Tweenky 22/23 weeks pregnant, she woke up blind and having seizures. I got her in the car and to the hospital. (The following is from a previous post)


"I got up for work as usual and Tweenky said she was having trouble seeing; in fact she had gone completely blind for a few minutes and then the seizures happened. There is nothing scarier than having a loved one in your arms suffering a seizure and there is really nothing you can do but keep them safe from their surroundings. I had no idea what was causing this but I knew I had to act fast. I had managed to get her into the car when she came back around and we headed straight to the hospital where she had 2 more seizures in the ER. The attending doctor in the ER had totally pissed me off; Tweenky was having a seizure and he just stood there. I alone was holding her and keeping her from falling off the table. They finally got her stable, which took 15 minutes because no one could find the freaking key to the medical cabinet - really?

Then they tried 3 or 4 different times and with different equipment to find and check the baby's heartbeat and vitals. It was frustrating no one would tell me anything and I knew that if I caused a scene I would likely be escorted to the waiting room - not where I wanted to be. I was playing back the past week in my head: had I forgotten to give her her meds? There were only 3 pills she took daily - had I given her the wrong one at the wrong time?No, I had given her the right meds at the right times...that much I was for sure. But still my head was racing for a reason as to why this was happening. This feeling of helplessness and unknowing was infuriating to say the least.

The ER doctor took me outside and said, "There's no heartbeat or movement and we are moving her to labor and delivery." I felt my world stop, fall around me, and there was nothing else around me except Tweenky. She had lost consciousness from the seizures but she was stable for now. It was like the world had gone into slow motion for the next forty minutes or so. I don't remember who I called first or who I actually talked to. I was, for all intents and purposes, "going through the motions."

After calling family on both sides, I stayed at her side while the ob-gyn ran tests. It was within a half hour the doctor confirmed that our son had in fact died but that was only part of the problem. Tweenky was suffering a severe type of pre-eclampsia called HELLP Syndrome, symptoms of DIC and her kidneys were barely functioning. They had to install a PIC line for faster results to the medicine they were giving her. She had an IV in each arm, one was saline to keep her hydrated and to keep her kidneys functioning as much as possible. Her platelet count had dropped to almost 30,000; it should be around 250,000 to 300,000. This meant surgically removing our son (which would stop the DIC and release her from the HELLP syndrome) was not an option and she would have to perform a vaginal birth.

Tweenky had fallen in and out of consciousness 3 times after being moved to the ICU. I know that it was 3 times because, when she would come around and ask what was going on, I had to tell her that we lost the baby each time. This killed me inside every time. She was apparently in such a state of shock, compounded with the seizures; she was having problems remembering, focusing and remaining awake. The doctors came to me with paper work for a blood transfusion and other life-saving permissions,( I was raised a Jehovah's Witness for 20 some years - a blood transfusion would not have ever been allowed had I still been a follower and she would have died.) I signed them all without hesitation. I wanted them to do everything imaginably possible to save her. They kept us up to date as things were happening, but still time was of the essence. She was going to become more septic as the minutes passed and her kidneys were barely functioning, zapping what little energy she had in her to stay awake. All the while they were telling us to plan for the worst."


Had I still been a follower, my Dad would still have lived but only by way of a miracle and I would have lost both Tweenky and our unborn son. It's a helluva trade off for a belief that has no merit when you bring science and technology into the mix.

I'm thankful everyday for the doctors and nurses that saved my childhood acquaintance who I wish I had gotten to know better. I'm thankful for the doctors, technicians and nurses that helped in performing surgery on my Dad. Last but not least, I'm thankful for the doctors, nurses and helpful hospital staff that saved Tweenky's life.

Growing up in this religion and being taught that the taking in of blood will result in disassociation, dis-fellowship and even shunning by your congregation and family deeply affect me.. I saw a recent article (see below) that made me want to share the other side that most people do not see when these decisions are made.

The uglier side of these "No Blood" accounts is that if you get a transfusion, whether it by choice or court order etc,. you will lose out and be regarded as an outsider. You can lose all association with your family and friends - be cast aside as trash. It is a terrible and harmful teaching that is hammered into their brains by use of fear.

Fear of being left behind, fear of being alone, fear of losing all that you hold dear...

The recent post by JT entitled "Doctors save teenage boy’s life against his will." brought the above post to light as it seemed unfair to make a long post in the comments that may get lost or overlooked by many.