A strawberry never tasted so good

It was no ordinary strawberry. It was a beautiful strawberry red, vibrant and alive. It was not perfectly formed. It looked as though it had endured some rough times in its short life. It was a reminder of what we all look like as we grow older, a bit gnarled, uneven in some spots, and even slightly discolored here and there.  Aging does that, even to a strawberry. I held it gently in my hand. Somehow I had never before looked at a strawberry in this way. I then began to realize that the strawberry was no different than before, but I was.

Some years ago:

I had just returned from an unexpected, but a very necessary, three day stay in the hospital. I had gone in for a routine, but overdue, colon scan.

Today’s medical technology is simply amazing. The “prepping procedure” began at home. There were seemingly endless gallons of “cleaning fluid” to swallow, so that my colon would be nice and clean for its “photo shoot.”

Even though I had endured the “prep sessions” in the past, it never gets any easier, but it is very important and should never be overlooked. I actually looked forward to the actual scan because it would mean that the “cleansing procedure” was past history.

On the morning of the scan, my wife Bette and I drove to the local area hospital in Burnsville, Minnesota. We looked forward to going out for lunch after the procedure. We were planning to have lunch at Cam Rahn Bay, our favorite Vietnamese Restaurant. It would be a welcome reward for the abuse my insides would have just tolerated.

I changed into the standard hospital outfit. It was a stylish light blue gown, with straps in the back, to keep me “decent,” although “decency” at that moment was not uppermost in my mind. I was ready for “being looked at.”

The doctor who would do the procedure introduced himself and asked if I would like to see the “entire thing” (sort of a medical term) on the television monitor. Being a somewhat inquisitive sort of a person, I of course said, “yes.” 

I would have preferred a hockey game, perhaps Michigan Tech. or the Minnesota Wild, but that was not an option on the “Colon channel.”

I was placed on a gurney and wheeled into the “Colon Room.” I waved at some passerby, but they seemed preoccupied with their own problems. The T.V. monitor screen was adjusted and sure enough, there it was. It sort of looked like a snake beginning to look around in my insides.

I had a strange desire to giggle. I assumed it was because of the drugs that were being injected to keep me calm. The whole thing reminded me of watching a man on the beach with a metal detector. The snake stopped. The doctor said, “Ah ha, there’s one.”

He again reminded me of the man on the beach who had just found” the pearl of great price.”

He explained that he had found a polyp (a little growth that, if left to grow, could become cancerous). Miraculously, a little scissor-like thing appeared and snipped off the polyp, to be ejected later, I assumed down-stream. Something else sealed off the incision.

I was watching this in “real time” and “vibrant color.” Amazing. The snake relentlessly went on with its work, oblivious to the fact that it was “on TV.” It obviously had other places to visit and more patients to see. It resumed its search and found two more polyps, removed and sealed them, and then I was told that I was “all done”. It had been a fascinating “colon road trip,” and now it was time for that much anticipated and well-earned lunch.

Cam Rahn Bay was wonderful, and my empty tummy rejoiced. We returned home, and it was time for a nap.

The whole thing had really tired me out. The next day I went back to work at St. Stephens Lutheran and life returned to normal. Sunday was coming and next Sunday morning’s music was waiting for final practice. I was feeling relieved.

The “cleansing deal” was past history.

Sunday morning. The service went well and I said a special “Thank You Lord” for the successful scan. There was a brunch after the service and then I drove home.

I felt a little wheezy. When I used the bathroom, I saw that I was passing blood. Not a good thing, ever.

We immediately went to the E.R. Back into another hospital gown and we were given the diagnosis. Something seemingly was not right in my colon, and it warranted another look.

Hemoglobin 12 (red blood, low-normal level)

After undergoing many tests and spending several hours in the emergency ward, I was wheeled into what would be my home for the next three days. The doctor who had performed the initial scan was contacted and he informed me that at 8:30 the next morning, he would “take another look.”

I had hoped that he would come right away, but he probably had more important things to do like finish his golf game, or take his Sunday afternoon nap. I had assumed that my bleeding colon was fairly important, but I guess he felt it could wait until morning. In the meantime I continued to lose blood. I became somewhat concerned that I might run out. It did not make for a good night.

Hemoglobin 11 (low level)

At 8 a.m. I was back in the “colon room,” Trying to be funny I told the doctor that I had seen the video before and I would skip the “rerun.” However, once it started I just had to watch, again.

Together we saw the spot where the first polyp used to be. It looked good (as far as I could tell, but of course, I only have a musical, not a medical degree). On with the tour.

Area number two was equally good. Just one left. Sure enough, number three was the culprit. The sealing process had not worked, and consequently, I was losing my life’s fluid. A little rod appeared on the end of the scope which was used to light up my insides. A tiny scissors-like clamp thing appeared. It fastened itself over the wound and, voila, if by magic, the bleeding stopped. Totally awesome!

Just for good measure the doctor repeated the procedure three more times. He was taking no chances. He did not want to see my insides again, and neither did I.

Hemoglobin 10 (Time for “Concern” level)

Back to my room. More tests. I was beginning to feel weak at this point. I decided to take a nap and was gently awakened by the entire St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church staff surrounding my bed. On the one hand it was a wonderful, much appreciated surprise. On the other hand it made me wonder if this was some sort of Lutheran version of The Last Rites! Pastor John offered prayer, and I invited my nurse to share in that moment of fellowship. We felt close to each other and close to the God in whose hand we all are. I knew that I was not far from His presence.

Hemoglobin 9 (critical level)

I had reached the “low” point in my life. Any further reduction in my blood supply and I might well go into shock and die. It was a new experience for me. I had faced death before in my life, beginning with living for five years in The Netherlands during the second World War, but this was different. There was no pain, and no fear.

A deep calm took hold of me. I knew that I was in God’s hand, and I was at peace. It was a case of “not my will, but your will be done.”

The nurse came in and informed me that I was to receive two units of blood. Immediately! Bette and I, with the nurse and the doctor, discussed the pros and cons. It was not a difficult choice.

Our natural instinct is to live, and I was no different. If God had some future purpose for me, who was I to question the Almighty? The transfusion lasted almost eight hours. It gave me a lot of time to contemplate my past and my future. By the next morning my Hemoglobin had risen to 12. Hallelujah!

Now the question is, “Who am I?” I am no longer the same person I was. I now have become one with someone else. Who is the other “someone else?” Is it male or female? Old or young? Black, yellow or white? Will my character change? Improve? Deteriorate? Would I still be able to play the organ? Will I now like Brussel Sprouts? (I hated those as a kid). So many possibilities.

On Tuesday afternoon, I was released from the hospital and Bette and I, thankfully, drove home. I opened the refrigerator and took out a bright red strawberry. It reminded me of the blood of life that I had lost and received. It was the most wonderful tasting strawberry, ever!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Gerrit Lamain is a former Copper Country resident who served as a music professor at Suomi College. He has published a book, “Gerrit’s Notes: A compilation of essays,” which can be found on Amazon. His email address is gerrit.lamain@gmail.com.


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