Children’s Hospital is like a second home to Harper. On her first birthday, it was also the home of her baptism.
The Rev. Amanda Borchik and the Children's Hospital chapel have provided spiritual comfort through Harper's illness.July 22, 2019
Children’s Hospital chaplain Amanda Borchik baptizes Harper Rose Jefferson on her first birthday as Harper’s parents Lyndi and Allen Jefferson proudly help out. Photo by Steve Green
When Harper Rose Jefferson was 6 weeks old, her parents, Lyndi and Allen Jefferson, sat inside her patient room at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt waiting for answers about what was wrong with their little girl.
Harper was lethargic and pale, and her bloodwork at her local pediatrician’s office revealed her red blood cell count was dangerously low. The doctor immediately sent her family to Children’s Hospital so she could be admitted for more testing.
“When we were first admitted for everything going on, we met Amanda — talking with her and her praying with us meant a lot to us. We’ve always talked about having her baptism here. We talked about it the very first time we met Amanda.”
And as they waited for answers, the anxious parents met and prayed with the Rev. Amanda Borchik, MDiv, BCC, chaplain in the Spiritual Care Department at Children’s Hospital.
Even though they had just met her, and with many uncertain days to come, the young couple quickly knew that when the time was right, they wanted Borchik to be the one to baptize Harper, and they wanted that baptism to be celebrated in the Children’s Hospital chapel.
“When we were first admitted for everything going on, we met Amanda — talking with her and her praying with us meant a lot to us,” Lyndi said. “We’ve always talked about having her baptism here. We talked about it the very first time we met Amanda. It made a lot of sense.”
Since that initial hospital admission, Harper has been at Children’s Hospital at least monthly for blood transfusions, and even sometimes admitted because of her illness. Using genetic testing, doctors diagnosed Harper with Diamond-Blackfan anemia (DBA), a rare condition in which the bone marrow doesn’t produce red blood cells, causing severe anemia. DBA occurs in about seven out of one million live births, according to the National Institutes of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine.
The bottom line: Harper needs monthly blood transfusions to survive.
In her first year the little girl with the big smile has spent a lot of time at Children’s Hospital, and each time Harper has been admitted, Borchik has been there to visit with the family, to talk, to pray.
As Borchik conducted the ceremony, welcoming Harper into God’s family, the toddler dipped her fingers in the shell holding her baptismal water, even managing a little taste in her mouth.
Borchik says spiritual comfort can be invaluable in times of uncertainty and stress.
“For so many families, this hospital becomes a place of connection and relationship. Our spiritual care team helps transform hospital rooms into sacred spaces, places where hope, peace and love join us,” Borchik said. “Waiting for a diagnosis and sitting in the unknown can be difficult alone, but we hope that by partnering with families, they know that love will continue to find them wherever they are.”
And so, just as the family had planned many months earlier, on June 28, Harper’s first birthday, Borchik officiated her baptism in a celebration with the Jeffersons’ family who had traveled from Iowa, South Carolina and from across Tennessee.
Wearing a white tulle dress with silky pastel green and rose-pink trim, Harper and her parents joined Borchik at the altar. As Borchik conducted the ceremony, welcoming Harper into God’s family, the toddler dipped her fingers in the shell holding her baptismal water, even managing a little taste in her mouth. When Borchik sprinkled the water over her head, she didn’t cry, but instead babbled happily, causing her family members to erupt with laughter and shed a few tears.
“For Harper and her family, love has found them over and over again in the walls of this hospital and carried them into this beautiful day of celebration in our Children’s chapel, a day of welcoming Harper into their faith, surrounded by her family on her first birthday,” Borchik said.
Lyndi said that Children’s Hospital was the perfect place for Harper’s baptism because of the role it has played in the Jefferson family’s life with her.
“The chapel has been a source of comfort and community for us,” said Lyndi. “We have been fortunate to have Vanderbilt as a part of Harper’s care.”