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Left: Newspaper photo of ten-year-old Cecilia Alvarez after her 17th operation; Right: Cecilia with her parents and younger sister in May 2019

AUGUST 7, 2019
ARGENTINA

Sister Cecilia Alvarez Has 43 Bloodless Surgeries in 25 Years

Sister Cecilia Alvarez, from Argentina, has dealt with severe health problems her entire life. Her first procedure was when she was only 16 days old. On May 18, 1994, doctors in Argentina repaired birth defects on her spine and spinal membranes. Since that day 25 years ago, Cecilia has endured a remarkable 42 additional surgeries, the majority of which were when she was a child. The most recent procedure was earlier this year to repair her left hip. Like all of her prior surgeries, this one was successfully performed without a blood transfusion.

1999: Five-year-old Cecilia at Juan P. Garrahan Children’s Hospital

Cecilia admits: “It has been very stressful to have my body exposed to so many surgeries and treatments.” However, she has tried to remain positive and has relied on Jehovah. Additionally, she, along with the support of her parents, has made every effort to listen to the doctors’ recommendations. “To prepare my body in advance for surgery was a key point,” states Cecilia. “This included taking iron, folic acid, erythropoietin treatment, and a diet with plenty of iron-rich foods, which increased red blood cell production.”

Describing the medical teams that have assisted her over the years, Cecilia acknowledges: “I highly value their work, not only because they saved my life but also because they showed respect for my refusal of blood transfusions.”

Dr. Ernesto Bersusky, retired spinal pathologist

The clinicians that worked with Cecilia have expressed a mutual respect for her and the brothers who assisted her. Dr. Ernesto Bersusky, former chief of spinal pathology at Juan P. Garrahan Children’s Hospital in Buenos Aires, who was involved in a number of Cecilia’s major spinal surgeries, recalls: “In my dealings with Cecilia, I have seen how determined she is and how clearly she can explain her beliefs. I spoke with her many times, explaining what I was going to do and reassuring her that no blood transfusion would be administered.”

Dr. Susana Ciruzzi, lawyer and bioethicist

Dr. Susana Ciruzzi, a lawyer and member of the bioethics committee at Juan P. Garrahan Children’s Hospital states: “There has been a coordinated effort between Jehovah’s Witnesses and the medical community. We have worked together with Jehovah’s Witnesses and have committed ourselves to evolve—not only our minds but also our techniques and scientific knowledge—thus developing alternative methods to blood transfusion.”

In addition to Cecilia’s expert clinicians, she credits her success to the support of fellow believers, stating: “I deeply appreciate the work of the Hospital Liaison Committee (HLC) and the Patient Visitation Group. Their self-sacrificing and unconditional availability, despite having family and other responsibilities, is a priceless treasure.”

Though she experiences persistent physical pain and is confined to a wheelchair, Cecilia, now 25 years old, is well-known for her positive attitude. In fact, she says: “I believe that these traumatic experiences have helped me to refine my personality and develop Christian qualities.”

July 2019: Cecilia in the ministry with a fellow pioneer sister

Cecilia continues: “After one of the surgeries, a member of the HLC visited me and cited Proverbs 10:22: ‘It is the blessing of Jehovah that makes one rich, and he adds no [permanent] pain with it.’ That text has stuck forever in my mind and heart.”

On May 1, 2019, our sister Cecilia received a very special blessing when she was appointed to serve as a regular pioneer. Clearly, Jehovah has comforted and strengthened our dear sister. As a result, she, in turn, joyfully shares the comforting message of God’s Word with others.

We trust Jehovah will continue to comfort all of us in our various trials just as he has done for Cecilia.—2 Corinthians 1:4.