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How Geisinger helped meet one family’s spiritual needs during a pandemic — with a little creativity and a lot of teamwork.

Members of Geisinger’s Spiritual Care team are always available to support families’ spiritual needs. But even practicing one’s faith can be more complicated during a pandemic.

So when Amanda Greenawalt and David Sauter wanted to baptize their newborn son Greyson — born at 37 weeks with serious kidney disease — the couple turned to the team’s Chaplain Kay Korpics for help.

“I met Amanda and David in March during their Maternal Fetal Medicine meeting to plan for Greyson’s birth,” Rev. Korpics says. “After Greyson was born, I met with them again, and they shared that Greyson was pretty sick and they wanted him baptized.”

Greyson, who weighed just over 5 pounds at birth, had been diagnosed as seriously ill during week 16 of Amanda’s pregnancy. His condition, bilateral multicystic dysplastic kidney, deprived his lungs of vital amniotic fluid, giving him little chance of survival.

After deciding not to terminate the pregnancy, which was an option, Amanda put herself on bedrest and relied on her faith for strength until Greyson’s birth in April.

“They expected that Greyson would need to go right on life support and a ventilator, but he didn’t need any of it,” Amanda notes. Although he required care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), “his lungs were developed, and he was crying at birth.”

A baptism in the NICU

While Greyson, who’s now at home, had overcome the odds, he still faced an uphill struggle, and the couple wanted to find a way to have a safe blessing for him while he was in the NICU, in line with Geisinger’s safety protocols.

“We screen and rescreen everyone before they come through the door of the NICU,” says Dr. Lauren Johnson-Robbins, neonatologist at Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital. “All moms are screened before labor and our staff wears extra PPE for deliveries. Otherwise, as always, it’s all about handwashing and, of course, mask use.”

The need to keep all patients including Greyson safe meant a traditional blessing wouldn’t be possible. But because baptizing Greyson was so important to his family, Rev. Korpics helped Amanda and David contact their pastor, Tim Hogan-Palazzo of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in West Milton, to arrange for a virtual blessing/baptism while Greyson was still in the NICU. 

The family’s pastor performed the blessing over a Zoom video call, while Rev. Korpics performed the ritual in the NICU. She poured water over Greyson’s head from a seashell that was blessed by the pastor during the ceremony. 

The hospital’s March of Dimes representative arranged the Zoom call and even decorated the NICU where the blessing was held. Child Life Specialist Maggie Heimbuch took pictures of the ceremony, and Greyson’s nurse that day, Heather Diehl, RN, was present to make sure Greyson remained medically stable. 

“Having a baby in the NICU at any time is very hard on families, but this pandemic has made it even more difficult,” Rev. Korpics said. “With a little creativity and amazing teamwork, we were able to meet the spiritual needs of Greyson’s family.” 

A baptism in the NICU
A baptism in the NICU
A baptism in the NICU

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