My name is Robert Weslowski Jr. (Bob), and I am from Tucson, Arizona. Back in 1996, my father, Robert, who was 72 years old, entered a local hospital via the emergency room complaining of severe stomach pains. This was not unusual for him as he suffered from severe ulcers for most of his adult life. In spite of his ulcers, my father was otherwise in good health and very active. At the time that my father was admitted to the hospital, he had been living alone as my mother had died the year before. He was a person who liked his privacy and stayed home most of the time.
My mother had been an active Jehovah’s Witness and both my wife and I were Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) – my wife for over fifty years and myself for twenty-five years. My father was not a Jehovah’s Witness. But, because he had been married to my JW mom for so long, the teachings of the Witnesses had absorbed into his thinking over the years. For a time he studied with a local JW brother who would come to the house. The Bible studies never materialized into baptism. My father didn’t attend meetings but he never objected to his wife going.
At the hospital, my father was admitted and, after diagnosis, it was determined that his ulcers were indeed the issue. In fact, they were bleeding severely. After several more tests and consultations by various doctors, it was decided that he needed an immediate blood transfusion and probably surgery to remove the bleeding ulcers. The alternative was that he could bleed to death.
The medical staff moved Dad to the Intensive Care Unit to monitor him closely as his condition began to fail. In particular, his blood levels were dropping rapidly. My dad was very weak and barely conscious at this time. The doctor consulted with me and told me that my father needed blood quickly and corrective surgery to stop the bleeding. Dad’s blood levels were so low he could not go into surgery without a transfusion as he most certainly would die.
I tried to speak to my dad so I could honor his wishes and he softly, in a weak voice, said to me, “Do what you think is best”. Of course, what the doctors were telling me what was “best”, was that they wanted to give my dad a blood transfusion to keep his blood levels high for the surgery and to keep him alive! His blood loss was substantial. By this time my dad was not in any condition to sign consent forms for the transfusion or surgery, so the doctors turned to me to ask me to give the consent in writing. I was in such a confused state. On one hand I carried a No Blood card in my wallet and on the other hand my father, who was not a Jehovah’s Witness himself, was critically in need of this blood transfusion and the surgery or he would probably die.
I was faced with what seemed like an impossible decision. I left the room to think things over and I walked outside the hospital to find some place to think. Some of the local JW elders had shown up earlier that morning for support. They had brought up the sanctity of blood and Jehovah’s laws against blood transfusions, and that I needed to adhere to those laws to get the promised reward of eternal life. They soon left after having accomplished their mission, which must have been to remind me of my duty to Jehovah.
I can attest to this: that being at the Kingdom Hall while elders hand out the No Blood Cards, in a rallying session, asking members to sign the blood refusal cards, and that they will witness the signatures, is a far cry from being in a hospital with your family member dying on a bed in front of you, and with doctors telling you that without a blood transfusion your father will soon be dead. Now I had to make a decision for him, not just for me and my life. This was for my own dad. He was dying and should I say “yes”? Was it right for me to say “no” when my father wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness? Would I be blood guilty with Jehovah if I let the doctors give him a blood transfusion? I didn’t know what to do.
Unknown to me, my brother, who was not a Jehovah’s Witness and lived 100 miles away, had just arrived at the hospital. When I went back up to Dad’s room, my brother was coming out and he hugged me and told me he was sorry, but he had given the permission to go ahead and transfuse my dad and then take him to surgery. My brother was not very close to our father. I was the one who Dad leaned on, especially after our mother had died. But my brother knew that as a Jehovah’s Witness I did not believe in blood transfusions and he felt bad that he had went behind my back. But he also knew he could do what I could not – he gave permission for the needed blood transfusion. I can tell you as I hugged my brother, and felt his tears and mine roll down our cheeks together, the relief was tremendous as that heavy burden lifted off my shoulders. Facing that decision had felt like a weight so huge. I was elated.
When my brother and I went back into the ICU, the doctor was literally on top of our father, trying to find a vein that had not yet collapsed to insert the needle for the transfusion. The doctor finally succeeded finding a vein in his neck. It was the last possible place to look. Our father received a blood transfusion and the surgery was a success. I felt zero guilt. I really do not know what decision I would have made if the decision had been left up to me alone. After being in the Jehovah’s Witness organization for many years I now know that I had been brainwashed but I had not really been tested. And then it happened, my faith was tested. I would like to think I would have caved in and said yes, to go ahead and transfuse my non-JW father. Life and death was in my hands. My own father’s life was in my hands. After all, I reasoned, if I made a mistake and Jehovah is a loving forgiving God, he would have forgiven me.
My Dad lived for another 22 years, dying last August (2016) at 91 years of age. We often spoke about that day and how my brother saved his life. I somehow felt I had failed in letting that decision take so long. I thank God for my brother Larry. How ironic that my brother, who wasn’t that close to our father, came in and saved his life while me, the one son who took care of him almost cost him his life. Some Christian I had been! I left the Jehovah’s Witnesses two years after my father’s medical emergency, as did my wife. After waking up and truly looking through the FOG of Watchtower’s false teachings I can say that this experience was one of the main reasons I started to examine what I had been taught.
The Watchtower’s policy on blood is a quagmire of confusion. On one hand, a person can have all of the different fractions of blood but one cannot put those fractions together and take whole blood. My Dad simply needed red cells – those continue to be forbidden – but Jehovah’s Witnesses can accept hemoglobin which amounts to 97% of the red cell. It is simply crazy! I can only wonder how many innocent lives have been lost, and could have been saved, over this needless and foolish organizational law. Thank God my father’s life was not one of them.
Robert Weslowski, Jr.