ASHLAND, Ky. (KT) – Her oldest son was lifeless on a hospital gurney in the trauma room as doctors tried desperately to figure out how to save him.
Amy Burton knew who was ultimately in charge.
“It was chaos. So much was happening, and he was in bad shape. These medical professionals, who were fantastic and are great, had no idea what to do but Amy knew exactly,” said her pastor, Josh Schmidt of Grayson First Baptist Church. “She began quoting scripture and singing.”
Burton, a strong woman of faith, recited 2 Timothy 1:7 over and over again. That scripture says simply: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” She sang “Jesus Loves Me” and other spirit-led songs that came to mind to comfort her aching heart, said Schmidt, who was asked by family to pray with them in the trauma room.
"He was unconscious and his eyes were closed. I had to speak the Word over him. I spoke Jesus name over him out loud," she said. "Then I sang ‘There is power in the name of Jesus’ and it helped calm me. It was the Holy Spirit's way of comforting me."
She said the 2 Timothy 1:7 verse was from a past Vacation Bible School teaching experience. “That was the verse that came back to me.”
Doctors in Ashland worked hard on stabilizing him for two hours, Schmidt said, including using paddles to shock his heart back twice. They eventually decided to airlift him to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
“The medical team (in Ashland) was awesome,” Schmidt said. “The parents were twice as awesome.”
Amy called her sister, Leah Maupin, who lives in the Cincinnati area and told her to meet their son at the emergency room when the helicopter lands. The parents had to drive to Cincinnati from Ashland but having Maupin there gave them some comfort. Her connections with some hospital staff include the nurse who was in charge of her nephew.
While Schmidt and his staff mobilized prayer teams throughout the community and area via social media, Amy and Derrick Burton cried out to Jesus for strength because that’s all they knew to do.
Earlier in the day, their son, 12-year-old William Burton, had collapsed on a Little League in Grayson and was in cardiac arrest.
William was running along the outfield fence loosening up when he fell to the ground and was unresponsive. He has a heart condition called long QT syndrome, which makes him prone to irregular heartbeats and sudden cardiac arrest. In 2015, he had a similar experience when he was shocked while swinging on an electrical guide wire.
William has an automated external defibrillator (AED) with him at all times, his mother said.
It was in his backpack at the field, but his stunned teammates and coaches didn’t know it and the Little League didn’t have one on site. They attempted CPR and William gasped for air, but his pulse faded. An ambulance happened to be five minutes away or they may have lost him on that field. It was no coincidence but God’s provision, his mother said.
“Three ambulances pulled in,” Amy said. “That is only God working. Every single person came out and worked on him (from the three ambulances).”
Derrick and Amy have three children and all three had a place to be at nearly the same time that day. Their son, Thomas, needed to be in Russell for scrimmage at 5:30 and Ellie had a piano lesson at 4:30. William was to be at the field at 5.
“William was going to be at the field by himself for more than 20 minutes,” his mother said.
“Thankfully, the ambulances were there with AEDs,” she said. “God went before us. None of us had to see him in that state. Being in a community place, it hit home for everybody in Grayson.”
They first took him to King’s Daughters Medical Center before being airlifted to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center where he was sedated for two days while recovering in intensive care. He came off his ventilator for the first time Thursday.
When he arrived in Cincinnati on Tuesday, his aunt was there. She took photos of everything she could to send to her sister via text messages to help them know what was happening as they traveled. Once in the ER, Aunt Leah also whispered prayers in his ear and asked him if he knows it’s her, to squeeze her hand. Despite being seemingly unresponsive, he was able to squeeze, his aunt said.
It was becoming more and more obvious that God was in the room and in control.
Maupin said the doctors and nurses at Children’s poured out knowledge and care to her nephew and she passed that feeling of William being in the best hands down to her sister and brother-in-law who were speeding their way from Ashland to the hospital.
William’s recovery from two days in the ICU was nothing short of a miracle, Amy said. She praised God for seeing her son through the tragic time and giving her the feeling that “everything was going to be OK,” as she told her sister early Tuesday evening.
William didn’t remember collapsing at the field, or the trips to two emergency rooms as his life was hanging in the balance, Amy said.
“He asked me what happened, and I said, ‘You collapsed at the ballfield at baseball practice,’” his mother said. “He said ‘Well, did I catch the ball?’”
William is improving – a Facebook post shows him eating his favorite meal, biscuits and gravy – but he still has weeks of recovery ahead, his mother said.
He was moved out of ICU on Saturday and may have a pacemaker-like device installed on Wednesday depending on how he does the next few days.
“He has been a miracle, an absolute miracle,” she said. “They cannot believe how quickly he has recovered. He was fighting for his life. We didn’t know if he would make it.”
The incident serves as a warning or reminder for youth sports programs and school programs to have an AED available as well as someone who knows how to operate it. Burton clearly understands the life-saving importance of the machine and how to use it and is encouraging every league and school to have an AED and staff who can use them.
“It wasn’t a fixture at the field and it’s important that there is one that’s a fixture and somebody knows how to use it,” she said.
First Baptist Church of Grayson is being proactive on the cause, hosting free AED and CPR training at the ministry center for anyone in the community on April 23.
“He’s the sweetest kid,” Schmidt said. “Pastors want to say this about every kid but, straight up, he’s a prince. He’s one of these kids who shares his faith with anybody.” His father was able to baptize him a few years ago, the pastor said.
Schmidt recently baptized the younger siblings in this family of faith.
Amy is already thinking about how God will be glorified from telling their story in the near future, the pastor said. “She firmly believes this incident will help bring people to Jesus,” Schmidt said.
“It’s one of strongest faith families I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said. “Many, many children are going to be in heaven first because of God’s grace, but also Amy’s efforts as children’s director.”
It has been an extremely difficult week for the family, who endured another tragedy this week when Amy’s brother and sister-in-law lost a 2-month-old triplet.
Amy asked friends on her Facebook page that have been praying for William to also pray for her brother and sister-in-law because she knows what the power of prayer did for William and her family.
"We know God is using William to turn people to Jesus and to bring Himself glory through our cries of desperation," Amy wrote on a Go Fund Me page. "He’s good. He’s faithful, and His perfect love casts out all fear. Please keep praying in the Powerful name of Jesus."
The family expects significant medical costs as a result of William's prolonged hospitalization. Anyone interested in making a contribution can do so via GoFundMe.