UCP SuperStar passes away

Jackie Morgan with her children, Samantha and Jonathan.
Jackie Morgan with her children, Samantha and Jonathan.(Source: Betty Brown)
Published: Apr. 17, 2020 at 10:48 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - A sweet soul left us this week... quietly and without fanfare. As local doctors and nurses worked to save her life last weekend from an infection that was in her blood, the Lord above had different plans for Jackie Morgan.

But really...right from the beginning, He had different plans for Jackie on earth.

I first met Jackie Morgan through the United Cerebral Palsy Telethon.

Her laughter was infectious! Anyone who knew her will tell you that.

On this day, some 30 plus years ago, her eyes lit up with joy at the chance to talk with Tony Brooks.

Jackie loved coming to the TV station and visiting with us.

Tony made sure I understood the incredible challenges Jackie had overcome.

Jackie was one of the first UCP Super Stars featured on the telethon that, in those days, was held inside the Indian Mall. (That was long before Tony, Terry Wood, Dick Clay and I co-hosted the event here at the KAIT studios).

Jackie was adopted by Robert and Sue Morgan when she was just five days old.

From an every age, cerebral palsy affected Jackie’s muscle coordination and speech.

At 14 months old, doctors told Jackie’s parents that she would be “a vegetable.”

It took her seven long years before she could walk.

And from there, nothing stood in the way of her ambition.

She was a Girl Scout and tried out for the band at Nettleton High School.

The late Larry Fugate, a former Jonesboro Sun staff writer and managing editor, profiled Jackie as a smiling teenager who was learning to drive.

Jackie Morgan was profiled in an article by the late Larry Fugate, in the Jonesboro Sun.
Jackie Morgan was profiled in an article by the late Larry Fugate, in the Jonesboro Sun.(Source: Betty Brown)

It was a challenge, since she had only limited use of her right side.

Thanks to United Cerebral Palsy of Northeast Arkansas, a bank loan against her parent’s house and several local fundraisers, Jackie underwent a breakthrough surgery in New York.

As a teen, Jackie traveled to St. Barnabas Hospital of New York City.

Her treatment involved surgery and implantation of a spinal cord stimulator that, in 1987, cost $20,000.

Four electrodes were attached to Jackie’s spinal column.

As Fugate wrote of the surgery, “By transcutaneous induction, radio frequencies from the transmitter carried in a purse or on a belt, are converted into electrical impulses by the receiver.”

It was a game changer for Jackie.

The disturbances in motor control were reduced.

The spasticity Jackie had felt her whole life was not completely gone; but greatly improved.

Jackie’s case brought hope to others living with cerebral palsy that improved movement could result in a better quality of life.

Jackie graduated Nettleton High School, got married and gave birth to two children who were the loves of her life, Samantha Morgan and Jonathan Morgan.

Jackie accepting her diploma from Nettleton High School, June 2, 1988
Jackie accepting her diploma from Nettleton High School, June 2, 1988(Source: Betty Brown)

But, Jackie also embraced the organization that helped her gain so much independence.

She was an ardent supporter of United Cerebral Palsy and came to every telethon that she could.

Jackie always felt that giving back just a portion of what was given to her was important.

As the years passed by, our visits became more and more infrequent.

Jackie divorced, her daughter grew up and her son remained home with her.

Jackie did the best she could to care for her mother with dementia.

But, she had her own health struggles to deal with not the least of which was diabetes.

You’d never know, though. She kept up with everyone on Facebook and loved to cheer on the adventures of my children--especially my daughter.

It was always comforting to see her smiling face online and her occasional question on Messenger.

Her caregiver, Betty Brown, made the call to get her to the hospital last Friday night.

“She was my girl,” Betty said. “I just never thought she would go so fast.”

The girl, turned young woman, wife and then mother, left an indelible impression on all of those who knew her.

Why?

Because if Jackie, who faced so many obstacles during her lifetime, could find the joy she did in life each day--then what is wrong with us?

How can we even think about complaining--when we have the ability to move without pain and go where we want to, when we want to.

That smile, accented by dimpled cheeks and eyes to match will never be forgotten.

Through the soft focus of memory, her laughter will always remind each of us of what true joy is really all about.

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