GRAYSON, Ky. (KT) – William Burton has one wish for Easter morning: “I want it to be so crowded that people are standing because there aren’t enough seats.”
The Burton family drew even closer to the beautiful resurrection story the past two weeks because of a resurrection of their own. They have never looked more forward to attending Easter services.
“Easter has always been special to us,” said his mother, Amy Burton. “We knew the power of the resurrection through our salvation but the fact that God saved William brought it out even more. The song, “I have Resurrection Power,” brings up a whole new meaning now. We experienced it firsthand.”
William is the 12-year-old Kentucky boy who collapsed on the Little League field in his small community 11 days ago. He was unresponsive and his heart wasn’t beating. He was in full cardiac arrest.
Miracles followed over the next few days and on Thursday, William Burton returned home from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to a hero’s welcome. Cheering people lined the streets with signs. They have been praying for him every day.
“The other day he was very emotional when he got all these cards from the community,” said his mother.
“It feels amazing that I have been loved like this my whole life,” he said.
William is an extraordinary young man. His pastor, Josh Schmidt of First Baptist Church in Grayson, said it’s not unusual for him to talk to a stranger about Jesus Christ. Schmidt heaped praise on William for a maturity that belies his age.
He is also quick to take up for the weak. Williams steps in when a fellow student is being bullied. “I do that,” he said, “because it’s not right. He’s right, I love being an example to others.”
William’s big heart was shocked back to life on the Little League field and he was rushed to a hospital in Ashland and then airlifted to Cincinnati. His life was dangling in the balance and anxious parents had to make the 2½-hour drive not knowing the fate of their oldest child.
It was heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching and peaceful.
“On our drive from the hospital to Cincinnati, we had been in the emergency room four hours while they were working on him (in Ashland),” said his father, Derrick Burton. “On our drive I said, ‘How are you doing, honey?’ She said, ‘I’m at peace.’ I said, ‘You know what, I am too.’ We had the chance to take a step back. The only thing we knew was he was in cardiac arrest, they were trying to revive him and we were going to the hospital now.”
They also knew God was in control and they gave it all to Him. If it was William’s fate to be in heaven, then so be it.
“William is a Christian,” his father said. “We were at peace either way. If He takes him, praise God. “If we have more time, praise God. I’m not saying it wasn’t hard (to say that). (But) It was one of the truest points of my life that I had to say I am putting my faith in action. I was at peace.”
William was revived from a heavily sedated state on his third day in the hospital in Cincinnati and when he opened his eyes that day, his father had a shouting fit.
“Tuesday evening, I thought my son was dead,” he said. “Tuesday and Wednesday, I thought he may be alive but will he be a vegetable? Doctors said the CT scan looked good but until they take it off, they really don’t know. We he opened his eyes … words can’t describe it.”
William said when he looked into his parents faces after coming out of sedation, he saw concern. “I thought they were worried. They weren’t their normal selves, maybe scared.”
But as the days went on, that worry left. The peace that passes all understanding took over everybody.
He had surgery on Wednesday when doctors inserted an ICD in his heart. It was a three-hour surgery that “seemed like minutes to me,” he said. It was successful and he was headed home the following day -another miraculous recovery.
William’s personality made him popular with nurses and doctors in the Cincinnati hospital. “I loved them,” he said. “They were awesome.”
“They were saying, ‘Are you sure you want to leave?’’’ his mother said. “They told him he was the most compliant child they’d ever had.”
William doesn’t remember the day he collapsed or even the day before at school. The last thing he can recall is driving home from Florida on the previous Sunday, two days before the incident that put a rollercoaster two weeks into motion.
In the midst of their despair and eventual triumph with William, the family was going through another difficult challenge. Troy and Emily Huffine had triplets and they lost 2-month-old Natalie. It was devastating. Troy and Amy Burton are siblings. The loss was immense.
“Spiritually speaking we were in a valley,” Derrick said. “Thursday afternoon we go to the mountaintop, the elation and joy we had (from William opening his eyes and having no brain damage) to Friday morning being back into the valley. I felt like Satan was attacking our family. Are we going to be faithful through the struggle of Natalie? Can we still praise the Lord? I kept thinking to myself how guilty I felt that my son was alive and his daughter wasn’t. We are extremely blessed with a strong family. I told them the other day I’m so thankful to become part of this family. There’s so many and we’re all there for each other, no matter what.”
All the while and through it all, the family praised God – through life and death.
One takeaway from the two-week whirlwind for the Burtons have been the people who have told them that their story has renewed their faith in God or that they want to know more about the God they know. Their test of faith has resonated with people from all around the world.
When they arrived back in town Thursday, William asked his father about going over to the baseball field so he could see his friends. After all, he’s 12 years old and missed them. Doctors have left the door open for him to play sports again.
“They said 10 years ago they would have said absolutely sports,” Amu said. “Now the advancements of medicine are so great there are people with ICDs playing different sports. They will go through the risks of each different sport and we’ll make a decision.
“Basketball is his favorite (but) we watched the Masters this weekend and he was intrigued by that. We’ve always said, in the scope of eternity, sports mean nothing. It has kind of kept us grounded.”
William and his thankful family will try to find a seat at the Easter service on Sunday. Of course, William’s wish is there won’t be any available.
Amy said she may put him in a wheelchair to help protect him from what’s sure to be a hug-and-tear-fest.
But whether they are sitting in a pew, or a wheelchair like William, this much is a guarantee: God will be glorified through what’s happened, both the heart healing and the heartbreak, in the life of this Kentucky Baptist family of faith.