A local woman whose 16-month-old daughter died after being born with an underdeveloped heart spoke Wednesday about her faith and life on "the other side of pain" during the annual Mayor’s Prayer Luncheon at Van Buren High School.
Kerry Morton, who started the group Fight Like a Glory Girl to bring awareness to her daughter’s condition, told her story to a group of about 250 who were attending the luncheon hosted by Kiwanis Club of Van Buren.
"When I talk about her life, I always refer to it as a miracle, because that’s what it was," Morton said. "She shouldn’t have lived one day, and she was here 16 months. God gave us 16 months."
In the beginning of her talk, Morton shared one of her favorite Bible verses - Isaiah 66:9, in which God says "In the same way I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born."
"That about summarizes the last five years for me and my family," Morton said.
Morton went on to tell how Glory Danielle Morton was born at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock after being diagnosed in the womb with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which caused a lack of development on the left side of her heart.
Hearing the diagnosis left Morton "deeply sad" for her daughter and all the things that would never be, she said.
"I remember thinking, ‘This is something that happens to someone else, this is something I help someone through, but not me and my family,’" Morton said. "I knew in that moment that my life was going to change forever."
Morton prayed that her daughter would not suffer pain and that, somehow, God would be glorified through her little girl’s life, she said. It was then that she and her husband, Philip Morton, decided to name her Glory.
Born July 22, 2010, Glory was diagnosed with numerous other congenital defects and endured numerous heart surgeries at Arkansas Children’s Hospital during her 16 months of life, the first of which she had at 5 days old, Kerry Morton said.
Meanwhile, her family, including the Morton’s first daughter Eliana, lived their "new normal" back and forth between Van Buren and Little Rock, Morton said.
During that time, Morton held tight to her faith in God, she said, even more after her hopes for a heart transplant were dashed. Glory’s other health issues prevented her from qualifying for a transplant, Morton said.
Glory was able to spend her first birthday at the Mortons’ rental home in Little Rock, but died Dec. 11, 2011, less than four months later.
"When I look back at all the pain… I know I would do it all over again, especially when I see the good things that are growing from it," Morton said.
Tears shone on the faces of the audience as Morton said that Glory "is still fulfilling her purpose in Heaven."
Morton shares her family’s story through her blog and Facebook page, both titled Fight Like a Glory Girl, and the Morton’s hope to help develop a program that provides housing and basic needs for other families with children at ACH.
The Mortons, who both are 1993 Van Buren High School graduates, have a daughter, Eliana, who will be a second-grade student at City Heights Elementary School in Van Buren.
Drew Cone, activities director for the Van Buren School District, was the host for the Mayor’s Prayer Luncheon. Lunch was catered by Backyard Barbecue.
Terry Ring of The Family Worship Center offered the opening prayer, Schannon Caudle of North Park Baptist Church said Grace and Chris Johnson of First Baptist Church of Van Buren gave the closing prayer.
Rick Wilkins of Rena Christian Church led a prayer over Mayor Bob Freeman, which pastors from around Van Buren "laid hands" on the mayor.
After the luncheon, 16 pink, heart-shaped balloons were released to represent each month of Glory Morton’s life.