Yitzhak Ganon, at 85-years old, looks like an ordinary man. However, no one would guess the secrets he has kept for many years. They are truly haunting, and he is finally telling his story as to why he fears doctors so much that he hasn’t been to one in 65 years.
The man has suffered a heart attack in 2009, which was not surprising considering his age. What was surprising is that when doctors were taking care of his blood clots, they found that he had only one kidney. Due to the major heart attack, Ganon needed to have five stents put in his heart in order to keep another heart attack away. The doctor said that he did not expect Ganon to survive the surgery, especially because of his general health condition and the fact he only had one kidney.
Ganon was born in Arta, a small city in Greece. He recalls the exact date of March 25, 1944 when an SS officer and a Greek policeman burst into their home and told his family they needed to prepare themselves for a big trip. Before going any further in his story, Ganon slid his sleeve up to his elbow and revealed an unmistakable tattoo: 182558 in dark blue ink. The tattoo is a constant, ugly reminder of the hell Ganon and his family went through, just like any other branded Jew.
He said that he trip to Auschwitz took nearly two weeks. His father died on the journey, having been sick even before being captured. After arriving at Auschwitz, Ganon’s mother and five siblings were sent straight to the gas chambers. Ganon, however, was taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he met one of the most infamous Nazis – Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death. Mengele was known to perform grisly experiments and surgeries on Jews of all ages.
At the camp hospital, Mengele and another man tied Ganon to an operating table and, without anesthetics, cut him open and removed one of his kidneys. Ganon recalls looking at Mengele with the kidney still pulsing in his hand. Ganon said that he cried bloody murder and begged for death so the pain would stop.
After being sewn back up, Ganon was forced to work in the sewing room without any painkillers. He was also given the terrible task of cleaning the bloody medical instruments after Mengele was done with them. After healing, Mengele forced Ganon into an ice bath and made him stay in it for a whole night so that Mengele could test his lung function. Ganon recalls that he had to spend six excruciating months in the hospital carrying out these gruesome tasks.
Even though it didn’t seem like it, luck was on Ganon’s side. After the hospital and Mengele had no more use for him, he was sent to the gas chamber. However, he managed to survive – the gas chambers could hold only 200 people, and Ganon was the 201st in line.
By January 27, 1945, the Soviets had liberated Auschwitz. After that, Ganon made his slow trek back to Greece where he found his surviving siblings, a brother, and sister. He then emigrated to Israel in 1949. He got married and vowed never to go to a doctor, no matter how bad things got. His wife told the reporter that he would always tell her he was just fatigued when he wasn’t feeling well.
If it weren’t for the doctor who repaired his heart, Ganon wouldn’t be here to tell his story. He ended up having a second heart attack and needed a pacemaker implanted. He now sees the importance of a doctor and their help. However, nobody could blame Ganon for the fear he had for doctors.