It has been at least 20 years since insurance companies have allowed patients to be admitted to the hospital on the evening before a scheduled operation. In my opinion, this was more convenient for the patient and his family, and gave the operating surgeon and his staff ample time to spend with the patient asking and answering all the necessary questions. I would use this extra time getting to know the individual better, and I believe the patients had less anxiety, and were better prepared to withstand the physical and emotional trauma which accompanies an operation.
William was an 87 year old gentleman recently diagnosed with colon cancer and referred to me by his primary care physician. I had never met him prior to his initial office visit 10 days earlier, but had found him to have a quiet and gentle personality which was attractive, and I had no problem getting to know him on a deep level. As a Black- American he had experienced the radical cultural changes which occurred in the South during his lifetime and especially during the painful, civil rights struggles of the 1960’s. He did not seem to be harboring any lingering bitterness toward Caucasians, in general nor toward me in particular.
On the eve of his scheduled operation, I went to his hospital room completed my preto-operative medical history and physical examination. I pulled my chair up to his bed and told him some facts concerning the operation and the anticipated recovery. He listened attentively without interrupting me, and when I finished I asked if he had any questions. “No suh’,” he said, “I guess I don’t know enough to ask any questions.” That seemed to be a common response of many of my patients, and I believe it indicated they were overwhelmed with the entire situation and trusted me to take care of all the details they didn’t understand. It was a responsibility I didn’t take lightly.
I told William I had done this operation many times, and I was confident he would recover from it very well and be able to resume his life as before. I said I had one more question to ask him, and he said, “OK.” “If by some circumstance, you don’t make it; are you certain you will spend all eternity with the Lord Jesus?” “I’m sure hopin’ I will, but I can’t rightly say for sure that is true,” he hesitated. “Would you like for me to show you from the Bible how you can know for sure Jesus will save you and you will be with Him forever?” I asked. “Would you please suh’, do that for me?” he pleaded. In the next 10 minutes I opened the Word of God for him to help him understand how much our Savior loves him, and how His desire was for William to invite Him into his heart. When I finished William asked if he could get down on his knees and let me help him ask Jesus to save him. It was a sweet time of repentance for him, and I was blessed to have witnessed his new birth as the Bible describes it. I hugged William and thanked him for the privilege he had given to me that evening.
When William got back on his hospital bed, he made a statement to me I will never forget. He said, “The last Christian man I was ever around, was my sergeant during World War I, and he never told me about Jesus.” In thinking about what he had just said, I believe he was referring to someone in authority over him who professed to be a Christian but failed to witness the good news to him that Jesus saves. Whenever I recall what William said to me so long ago, I always wonder just how many times I have failed to be a witness just like that sergeant did over 70 years previously. It is then that I ask God to empower me to be faithful to tell the good news to whomever I can and wherever I happen to be.
William recovered from the operation and lived several more productive years. As far as I know, he remained faithful to the Lord Jesus to the finish of his earthly journey.