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After paralysis, a spiritual healing

A young man, paralyzed by a rare bleed in his spinal cord, chooses to be baptized despite the dangers it posed to his health.

A young man’s decision to be baptized is, for most families, a cause for celebration.

For Elliott Harris’ family, it was terrifying.

Elliott Harris gets canine companionship as he recovers from a spinal cord bleed. (PHOTO VIA WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/ ELLIOTTHARRIS2017)“Elliott had been talking about getting baptized. He was just starting to think about it seriously before his incident,” Ernie Harris, Elliott’s father, told The Christian Chronicle.

That was two years ago. Elliott, an active member of the East Point Church of Christ youth group in Wichita, Kan., returned home from high school after tennis practice and developed an strange, intense headache. Within hours, he lost function on one side of his body.

His parents rushed him to the emergency room. From there, he was transferred to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. By the next day, he was on a ventilator. His family was in shock.

Doctors discovered that Elliott had a bleed inside his spinal cord — caused by what his dad described as a faulty blood vessel. It was an issue he likely had had since birth, but one they were never aware of, until now.

Elliott spent months in the hospital. The once-active teen’s life changed drastically. He’s now paralyzed and has a tracheotomy to assist his breathing.

And that is why, when Elliott told his parents he wanted to be baptized, they hesitated.

“He said, ‘Mom, it’s going to happen,’” Ernie Harris said.

Ernie Harris takes the confessions of his sons, Elliott and Luke, before their baptism.If any water were to get in Elliott’s tracheotomy, just a few drops could have dire consequences. So his dad went to work, meeting with medical professionals to figure out a plan for the baptism that would keep his son safe.

The strategy was elaborate. Church members set up a large, inflatable pool in the auditorium that would allow Elliott to be lowered on a stretcher by a group of volunteers. His family wrapped his tracheotomy opening with multiple layers of waterproof material and a cloth to soak up any water that might get through.

“We knew if we got him in the pool on a board, it was just one, two, three — straight down and up,” Ernie Harris said.

Paramedics were on hand for the baptism — just in case.

“I found out after the fact they were somewhat uneasy when they figured out what was going on,” Ernie Harris said.

Elliott’s older brother, Luke Harris, asked to be baptized on the same day — a mere 48 hours before he left for training in the U.S. Navy. Luke Harris was baptized first, and after he rose from the water, he joined the group of Christian men who carried Elliott into the water and quickly immersed him.

“I thought it would work,” Ernie Harris said. “With a lot of prayers and the Good Lord watching over us, it worked.”

Elliott Harris, now 18, doesn’t let paralysis stop him from achieving his goals, his father said. The young Christian recently graduated from high school and plans to attend Wichita State University this fall.

Members of the East Point Church of Christ in Wichita, Kan., celebrate with Elliott Harris after his baptism. Harris’ brother, Luke, was baptized first and then joined the group of men who carried Ellott into the pool and immersed him. (PHOTO FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

 His father marvels at his son’s courage and determination.

“How does somebody take what has happened to him and see it as, ‘I didn’t die. This is what I have. This is what I’ll work with’?” Ernie said.
His fellow Christians are equally impressed by the baptisms, said Michael Jones, minister for the East Point church.

“It was beautiful to see so many people working together to overcome the obstacles of Elliott being baptized,” Jones said. “Elliott wasn’t healed physically that day, but he was healed spiritually, and that is the healing that matters most.”
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