A Baptism in the ICU

Martin Griffithis was wheeled in his ICU bed to a room that had been prepared to help fulfill his greatest wish: a full submersion baptism. The baptism tank had been delivered from his church earlier that day just for the occasion.

His pastor Josh was waiting, along with his family, friends, and care team. His wife Vicky remained right by his side.

Once he was in the room, a medical lift picked Martin up out of his bed and then put him inside the baptism tank.

He repeated after his pastor; “I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

After that confession of faith, he was slowly lowered into the water with just his mouth and nose left above the water, per doctor’s orders. When he emerged, he was applauded happily by the room.

Martin moved to Missouri 13 years ago after his Northern Indiana home burned down. He was looking to relocate and fell in love with a farm in Callao, Mo. A horse raiser by trade, he set up a horse farm once he bought his land in Callao. And it was in Callao that he met his wife Vickie through a mutual friend.

Last year, he was diagnosed with lung cancer but was eventually pronounced cancer free.

“I’ve had several problems after that though including a problem with circulation in my leg, needing a vein replaced, and heart trouble,” says Martin.

This past Easter weekend, Martin had a near-fainting spell. He went to his primary care physician the following Monday, who immediately recommended he be airlifted to Boone Hospital Center.

“I was helicoptered here, and they found I had a large blood clot in my lungs and my heart was out of rhythm on both sides,” says Martin.

Martin’s care team worked hard to help him.

“Everyone is very kind here. It makes me glad that I am here. The food’s not bad either,” says Martin.

Still Martin says being hospitalized isn’t easy.

“I’m someone who has been pretty self-sufficient my whole life. It’s hard to be in this position,” says Martin.

Something Martin and Vicky both say they appreciate is Martin’s nurses involving Vickie in Martin’s care.

“They let me help take care of him which provides comfort to both of us,” says Vicky.

When Martin’s pastor and church members visited him in the hospital, Martin began talking about his baptism wishes.

“I had been baptized in the Catholic church as a baby, but as I have gone to my non-denominational church and read the Bible, I have learned about believer baptism and being baptized through submersion. It’s something I had wanted to do for years,” says Martin

Right away, Lead Chaplain Kim Leon got to work to see if an ICU baptism could be arraigned.

“I coordinated with the patient’s nurse, Kara, the Respiratory Therapy Manager, Jennifer, the patient’s physician, Dr. Hernandez, ICU Manager Lindsay, and the patient, his wife, and his pastor. The interdisciplinary team discussed the possibility of baptism with the patient’s physician, Dr. Hernandez, who gave his approval on the condition that the patient’s mouth and nose not be submerged,” says Kim.

Because the hospital did not have a baptismal tank on site, the medical team worked with Martin’s pastor to come up with a solution.

“The pastor offered to bring a submersion tank from his church so everyone made sure that it would be safely transported through the hospital, and I cleaned it when it got here,” says Lindsay Divins, BSN, RN, ICU Nurse Supervisor.

When everything was set, Martin was brought to the room with the baptism tub. The baptism went beautifully and everyone in the room was touched by the sweet moment.

“We had some new nurses that came and watched, and they were so moved,” says Lindsay.

“It was incredibly moving to witness this special and meaningful moment for Mr. Griffiths and his wife. It was inspiring to see the way that everyone involved was willing to do what they could to honor this patient’s wishes and to care for his spiritual health as well as his physical health. The way the entire team came together to make this happen is what makes Boone such a great place to work. I am grateful that I was able to be part of it,” says Kim.

Both Vickie and Martin say they have been so blessed by kindness and compassion while at Boone Hospital Center.

“We could never repay their kindness. Everyone here is so incredibly talented. Even nurses who aren’t on their shift will come by and check on him. You can’t train that kind of compassion. It’s just in their hearts,” says Vickie.

By Madison Loethen

For more information on our Spiritual Care services, please visit boon.health/spiritual-care or call 573.815.3888.