Given weeks to live, woman is baptized in Cedar River

Published 3:28 pm Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pamela DuBois, center, waits to be baptized in the Cedar River last week beside her son, Danny Harris. Photo provided

Pamela DuBois, center, waits to be baptized in the Cedar River last week beside her son, Danny Harris. Photo provided

When doctors told Pamela DuBois four weeks ago that she only had two weeks to live, she was determined to get baptized.

“I just wanted to get rid of everything that was in my past,” she said.

DuBois met her goal on Sunday, June 22, as she was baptized in the Cedar River near Marcusen Park with friends and family watching, including a brother, her son, Danny Harris of Mississippi, and her sister and caregiver, Kristina Alvarez-Babastro.

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“It’s amazing; I couldn’t believe it,” Alvarez-Babastro said. “I’ve never seen anything like that outside in the river.”

DuBois was born with liver disease, but she didn’t know it until four months ago. Originally from Austin, DuBois moved to Mississippi later and moved back to Austin 14 years ago. She moved in with Alvarez-Babastro about a month ago. DuBois has congenital hepatic fibrosis and other complications due to a birth defect.

Although she had always had problems with stomach pain, she never knew she had the condition until she went to doctors four months ago for severe stomach pain.

Now her liver is failing, and she just found out it’ll be five months before she can get on the transplant list. DuBois is receiving treatments at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

One of her sons is looking into the possibility of donating part of his liver to help DuBois, but it will depend on if doctors say it will help.

Although she was baptized when she was younger, she felt it was something she needed to do.

“I should have already been dead according to the doctors, and I prayed and prayed and came to the conclusion that whatever happens, happens, and to just let me live long enough to get baptized, and I was, and I am still living,” DuBois said.

Although friends and family were happy about her decision to get baptized, they were a little nervous about sending her into the Cedar River.

“They were very happy about the baptism,” DuBois said. They just didn’t want me to float down the river.”

After the city of Austin received heavy rainfall which resulted in flooding from June 16 to 19, the Cedar River was flowing quicker than usual. But DuBois was determined to be baptized in the river. She didn’t feel it was the same experience in a church baptismal.

“It was such a different feeling being outside rather than being in [a] tub,” DuBois said.

She planned to get in the river regardless of the flooding; if the water got too high, she would get baptized in a flooded street. Fortunately, the water stopped rising by Sunday, and the sun came out just as they were headed to the river. As DuBois, her son Danny Harris, and a pastor waded into the river, they tied a rope to a nearby tree to ensure they would not be swept away by the current.

“It was just a beautiful, beautiful thing,” DuBois said.

With a prayer, the family then released balloons, colored green and pink for liver disease and love. Although DuBois was born with her liver disease, she hopes others can learn from her story. She has spoken at the Fountain Centers, part of Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea, sharing her story with people who have addictions to drugs and alcohol that could leave lasting effects. She was excited to have one man already tell her she was an inspiration to him.

Alvarez-Babastro said her sister is a fighter.

“She’s gone through ups and downs since she’s been here. She’s a fighter, she’s fighting it,” Alvarez-Babastro said. “She doesn’t want to give up.”