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William Burton, 12, collapses on Grayson ball field; survives through family’s faith and Cinci Children’s

By Mark Maynard
Kentucky Today

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.”

Her son, 12-year-old William Burton, had collapsed on a Little League in Grayson and was in cardiac arrest.

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.

Parents Derrick and Amy Burton with 12-year-old William who is recovering at Children’s Hospital. (Photo from Amy Burton’s Facebook page/Kentucky Today)

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. His parents, Derrick and Amy, had to drive to Cincinnati from Ashland but having Maupin there gave them some comfort.

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.

“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.

They first took him to King’s Daughters Medical Center before he was 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.

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.”

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.”

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.

The Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals have been in contact through Children’s Hospital where William is healing. And that’s not all. Reds’ Hall of Fame baseball announcer Marty Brennaman sent him get well wishes over the radio airwaves.

“The hospital does e-cards and I have a whole stack of them from all over the United States and even Canada,” his mother said. “It’s insane from people we don’t know and have never met.”

Meanwhile, well-wishes keep pouring in through social media.

A coach with a traveling baseball team called the Titans immediately made stickers with WB5 on them – William Burton and his uniform No. 5 – that he sold for $2 apiece with proceeds going to the Burton family.

Photographs with players wearing his stickers have been shared on Facebook with the Burtons.

“Baseball is the American sport and we’re getting a lot of encouragement and support from the baseball community,” she said.

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