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Clark Regional, community partners help patient be baptized

Several Clark County businesses and agencies came together to make a Winchester man’s wish to be baptized come true.

Jack Sowder, 66, was baptized Wednesday night in front of Clark Regional Medical Center with his loved ones by his side. It’s something he was wanted to do for several years but couldn’t because of his bad health.

Sowder’s daughter, Crystal Tackett, said her father is a resident at Fountain Circle Health and Rehabilitation and was admitted to CRMC Sunday, “in bad shape.”

“He had a series of strokes years ago that left him paralyzed,” Tackett said. “He has lived at Fountain Circle about five years and has been bed-ridden about three of those. He has movement of his right arm and he is in his right mind and coherent.”

In addition to his pre-existing medical condition, Jack was in dire shape Sunday when he was admitted, Tackett said.

“He had a kidney stone, a temperature of 105 and sepsis,” she said. “He’s not even diabetic but his sugar was really high. He went to the hospital Sunday and was admitted to ICU. He’s in very poor health and the fact he has very limited mobility makes that more difficult.”

Tackett said her father had a similar episode about a year ago, and it almost took his life.

“Last summer, he almost passed away from something similar,” she said. “They pretty much counted him out. They sent him to hospice care, but miraculously, within two days, he was up eating a steak dinner. And we believe that the power of prayer brought him through that.”

After Wednesday’s experience, though, Tackett said she believes God was paving the way for her father to have the opportunity to be baptized.

“After he returned to the nursing home last summer, we began talking about how he wanted to be baptized,” she said. “But with him being paralyzed, we knew that would be very difficult.”

Tackett said the family explored ways that Sowder might be able to be baptized at the nursing home, but “there was no way for him to be baptized there the way he needed or wanted.”

Tackett said she believes God makes a way when their appears there isn’t one. And she thinks that is what brought her dad and family to CRMC this week.

“When he came in Sunday, we thought he was a goner,” she said. “They put him in the unit where hospice care can be conducted. The hospital staff had done all they could that he was willing to allow. He didn’t want a port in his heart or a feeding tube. He signed a DNR.”

Tackett said in the midst of the dire situation, her mother, Sowder’s ex-wife, mentioned that she wished he had been able to be baptized the way he wanted.

She called the hospital and within hours, the staff was rallying around Sowder to fulfill his desire.

“They did everything in their power,” Tackett said. “They were originally going to baptize him in the nursing tub in the OB unit, but it was too small for the lift.”

But, hospital staff wouldn’t be discouraged.

“We worked one-on-one with Tabitha Stepp, the quality director at the hospital, and she was great. They told us we’re going to make this happen regardless, even if we have to buy a blow-up swimming pool,” she said. “We went back to the room a little discouraged, but we thought if it’s God’s will, it’s going to happen.”

And it did.

Soon, hospital staff called to let the family know Rural King donated a trough that would be the perfect size for the baptism.

“They said they would take us outside and do the baptism there,” she said. “They were so willing to help us.”

Thinking it would take hours to fill a trough using a water hose, Tackett said the family was surprised when just a short time later they were told it was time for the ceremony.

“We go outside and find that the Clark County Fire Department had come and filled up the trough for us,” she said. “The firefighters were all standing there in a row with their hands clasped in respect. Several hospital staff were there for the ceremony, too.”

Tackett said the staff used a lift and her father was able to be baptized by Bro. Barney Bates of Highpoint Apostolic Church, like he always wanted.

“Everything was very comfortable for him,” she said. “It was an amazing experience, and we were not expecting it.”

Wanting to share the news with her family and friends and to thank those who helped make the baptism possible, Tackett posted photos to her Facebook page. Soon, her father’s story had been shared by more than 500 and liked by nearly 900.

“His story has touched so many people,” she said. “We had no idea that it would reach so far. I just wanted to post because I used Facebook as a sort of online diary, but so much more has come of it.”

Tackett said the post has had nothing but positive feedback with others sharing that they were moved to tears of joy by her father’s story.

“If anything, what if someone is contemplating and saw this story and it draws them to the Lord?” she said. “I think all things work for the good and for the glory of God. I thank him for his mercy and grace in allowing this to happen to begin with. I hope it continues to bless people.”

Tackett is also thankful so many people in the community rallied around her father with dignity and respect to make his baptism possible.

“We want to thank the hospital for treating our family with such respect, and Rural King and the Clark County Fire Department for going above and beyond for us,” she said. “So many times in this day and age, we’ve lost a sense of connection with each other. We’re treated like a number. But my dad was not treated like a number yesterday. He was treated like a human being who had his wish completely fulfilled.”

Watch a video of Sowder’s baptism here.