Then saith be unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.
(Matthew 9:37-38, KJV)
The scene is still unforgettable: the disheveled, fearful patient; the expectant, unsuspecting family; the chaos of the country emergency department; and the symptoms, as told by my middle-aged patient. He had unexplained nosebleeds for one week, shortness of breath, recent weight loss, decreased appetite, and a long history of smoking. All these conditions made me very suspicious of fulminant occult malignancy.
“My doctor told me my platelets were very low,” he said, with energetic misapprehension.
“Do you smoke, sir?” I routinely questioned.
“I just quit.” It was difficult to believe the convincing resolution in his voice.
“Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?”
“There’s no hope left for me, if you only knew the things that I have done….” He was clearly despondent regarding his eternal future.
“There is always hope. God will always take you back,” I said. But he was not convinced.
I finished the initial interview, listened to his heart and lungs, wrote my noted, and he was admitted to the hospital. His platelet count was 7,000 (very low), his chest x-ray showed pneumonia, and on his peripheral smear he had a large percent of nucleated red blood cells, indicating that his bone marrow was likely involved in his presumptive neoplastic process. Very interesting ….very sad. I spent the night reading about leukoerythroblastosis and thrombocytopenia and praying for my patient.
When I saw him next, I asked, “Sam, do you have any kids?”
“I have three, and love them to death.” He exuded a light I had not seen before.
“Have they ever messed up?”
“Oh yeah, my boy is in jail for murder.” So sad, so profound, such a perfect illustration.
“Would you ever think about taking him back?”
“In an instant. I wouldn’t think twice.”
“Sam, you know the heart of God. He will always take you back. You are His child.” The illustration caught him off guard. He remained pensive and quiet.
The next morning: “Good morning, Sam, sorry to wake you up. How are you?”
“No problem, I wasn’t sleeping. I couldn’t sleep all night.” This caught my attention. Sleep reflects the state of the mind, and something was going on. “I’ve been thinking all night about what you said, and I was wondering….I was wondering if you would help me give my life back to Christ.”
My eyes watered, my heart pounded. “Of course, Sam, I would be honored.”
Sam had metastatic small-cell carcinoma of the lung. His medical prognosis was measured in weeks at best, but his spirit was healed; and I was reminded why I went to medical school.
– Jamie Crounse, LLUSM class of 2007