‘Born again’: UAB cancer patient baptized as final wish — ‘The greatest day’
Thomas Roberts was an atheist for most of his life. However, in his final days earlier this month, he was reborn, deciding he wanted to be baptized.
According to a story posted on the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) website on Monday, Thomas specifically wanted to be fully submerged in water, per his newfound faith.
However, Roberts, dying of lung cancer, was wheelchair-bound and unable to breathe without oxygen tubes.
In stepped the incredible team at UAB to help his final wish come true.
Corey Agricola, a chaplain at UAB Hospital, and the rest of the UAB palliative care team worked the problem until they found a solution.
“It was a major effort by a lot of moving pieces and different teams to pull this off,” Agricola explained.
Roberts was a patient on the Palliative Care and Comfort Unit at UAB at the time and had only days to live. Upon learning of his special request, Agricola spoke with Roberts’ physician, Ashley Nichols, M.D., to make sure he was able to be off oxygen long enough to go under water.
Once he had her approval and knew the pool at Spain Rehabilitation Center was available, the team sprung into action.
“Dr. Nichols made it clear he would only be able to be off oxygen for a few seconds, which meant we couldn’t roll him down the ramp in the pool wheelchair, so we had to use the chairlift to place him in the pool,” Agricola advised.
Surrounded by his wife, son, two sisters, niece and nephew (and his UAB care team), Roberts was lowered into the water, where Agricola and a physical therapist were waiting for him.
“I have served in the ministry over 20 years and seven of those at UAB. This is the greatest day of my career,” Agricola emphasized to Roberts and his family at the baptism.
“Thomas, you never thought you would preach a sermon in your life; but you preached today. You made an impact on people who you do not even know,” Agricola told the patient.
After a reading of Romans 6:4-11, Roberts’ oxygen tubes were temporarily removed while Agricola held him in his arms.
“We thank God for the good and perfect gift of this day. This is one of the greatest days of your life, Thomas, because we are celebrating your new life,” Agricola told Roberts moments before he was baptized.
This was not just a huge day for Roberts, but his family as well. Their faith shown through in this toughest of times, just as Roberts’ was reborn.
“It brings me complete comfort and peace because I know where he is going now,” commented Gina Gibson, Roberts’ sister. “I don’t have to worry about it. Now there will be great joy just knowing where he is going. He is at peace. He was born again. You could see that on his face after the baptism. He was born again.”
They gave “all the glory to God” while thanking UAB for helping facilitate the incredible event.
“UAB and this team — this place was so accommodating and amazing,” said Davin Gibson, Roberts’ nephew. “You moved everything around — all of the departments worked together to make it happen. I give all the glory to God, but you guys rocked it.”
While Roberts passed away days later on September 9, he left behind one of the greatest gifts he could have given his family.
“I don’t know what could be a better gift than the feeling of peace, and that is what we have now,” shared Brooke Carr, Roberts’ niece.
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Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn