Our Director of Development, Audrey Salzburg, sat down with 89-year-old grateful patient Hazel McNutt to discuss her relationship to the House Institute Foundation for our “Share Your Story” program.

“Dr. Luxford Saved My Life.”

These were the words I heard from Hazel McNutt, the first patient I had the honor of speaking with when I arrived at the House Institute Foundation six months ago. Still finding my feet, the call from Ms. McNutt was an auspicious beginning to my patient-donor relationships. Thanks to the caring culture that was established by Dr. Howard House so many years ago, connecting with our patients continues to be an important legacy at the House Institute today.

Hazel recently came across Dr. William Luxford’s card that she held onto as a keepsake for almost 40 years, and this prompted her call. Hazel very openly and emotionally credits Dr. Luxford with saving her life. “There is no one in the whole world like him.”

You Would Have to Believe in Miracles

Hazel has held onto Dr. Luxford’s card for almost as many years as she has been doing missionary work, work that has taken her to China, Israel, the Philippines, Japan, and many states here in the US. She felt called to do this work as a high school senior, even declaring to her closest friends she was going to be a nurse missionary in China one day, but Hazel never thought this dream would come true.

“We had a poor way of life,” Hazel told me. Her father had left her mother alone to take care of her twin brother, her younger brother and herself. They struggled finding a place to live but Hazel’s mother was a devout Christian woman, and she always said God spoke to her. “God knows all things and he sees you and he loves you. So, you don’t have to worry about one thing.”

In a secondhand bookstore, Hazel found a copy of “In God’s Underground” by Richard Wurmbrand. It felt like God was speaking directly to her. Wurmbrand, too, had lived a very difficult life. It wasn’t long before Hazel and Wurmbrand were corresponding and Wurmbrand was extending an invitation for her to visit Israel with him. This began Hazel’s missionary career.

While sitting and listening to Hazel, it was obvious that this fascinating woman had met many captivating people from all over the globe. Yet there is one time, and one man, that stands out in her life: Dr. Luxford.

When she met Dr. Luxford for the first time, she was struggling with spells of dizziness that sometimes made it difficult to stand up or walk. “I woke up one morning and couldn’t get off the bed. . . I told my daughter I was so sick I was going to die.”

She was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease and, at first, she was resigned to the diagnosis and the pills she would have to take to help with her dizziness. However, after another bout of sickness, Hazel went to a clinic where they ran her through tests, did extensive x-rays, and found a tumor. They said she would need surgery and recommended the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles. Hazel had never heard of it. Her husband was worried they would not be able to afford the surgery. “And this is why I will never forget Dr. Luxford,” Hazel explained. “He stepped up to the plate and offered to find a way to help me.

God Has Ways We Don’t Know About

Hazel remembers vividly her final moments on the operating table before the anesthesia took effect. She had asked Dr. Luxford if he believed in prayer and if he would promise to pray before her surgery. The last thing she saw was him standing at her feet with his hands folded in prayer.

“When I came to, they were pushing me down the hall. I lost my hearing in that ear but the operation saved my life. It was just that simple. Dr. Luxford, he’s been a jewel.”

Having just turned 89, Hazel is now reflecting on her life and she wanted to give back to the man whose work all those years ago enabled her to make a difference in so many others’ lives. This woman who as a child slept with her brothers and sister under a tree and prayed with her mother that one day they would have a roof over their heads, has led a rich, blessed and some might even say charmed life. Getting to know Hazel over these past months I can say she has certainly charmed mine.

Audrey is looking forward to meeting you and hearing your story. Please reach out to her at asalzburg@hei.org