Aaron Morris had every reason to not enjoy life. Every reason to be bitter about his lot. Every excuse to feel sorry for himself. A string of legitimate and justifiable excuses to avoid getting a job.
He was born with severely clubbed feet. His arms and legs were “unusually” short. One kidney was malfunctioning. And his heart was riddled with holes.
Specialists at the Oakland Children’s Hospital and the University of California, Los Angeles concluded that the blond and blue-eyed baby with a happy disposition was, at that time, the only known case in medical history and diagnosed it as “disproportionate short stature syndrome.”
At age 4, he was barely half the size of his younger sister, Patricia.
“He had all kinds of problems. Doctors said he was born that way because of recessive genes,” said his parents Aaron and Sandra Morris whose son passed away on May 14 at age 34. Memorial services will be held on Saturday, June 8, at the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall on the northwest corner of South Manteca Road and West Ripon Road starting at 2 p.m.
Surgical intervention helped fix his clubbed feet. To further help the healing, he had to wear corrective shoes with the right foot wearing the left shoe and vice versa.
Less than a month before his fourth birthday, he had an open-heart surgery at the Oakland Children’s Hospital to fix the congenital heart problem.
Ten years ago, he underwent a kidney transplant. Years before that, kidney dialysis was a regular routine.
At the hospital after his heart operation and subsequent check-ups, the playful young boy with “incredibly long lashes” has charmed the medical staff as well as the Oakland California Highway Patrol department who presented him a special CHP hat and shirt. From the hospital staff, Aaron received an E.T. doll with a neck brace bearing his hospital identification and the name of his doctor, Dr. Hagashino. The doll later became “his favorite friend.”
Barely three weeks after his open-heart surgery, he was back home in Manteca entertaining family and friends. He would balance himself on a small bench made especially for him and then slowly lowered himself to the floor, his tiny short legs spread apart, imitating a ballerina split. At that young age, he became a fan of the camera. Every time he spotted one aimed at him, he would strike a pose by putting one hand on the hip and the other hand splayed playfully behind his head while throwing his other hip off to one side.
Hospital and doctor’s visits became a regular part of his life. But that did not deter Aaron from living as normal a life as possible.
He went to Sequoia Elementary School. Later, he attended Lincoln Elementary where he finished his eighth grade. He continued his education and graduated at Manteca High where he was enrolled in the special education program. Among his parents’ treasures are his prom and graduation portraits.
Despite his physical limitations, Aaron got his driver’s license and worked several jobs. He delivered newspapers for the now-defunct Manteca News and the Manteca Bulletin. While he worked for the Manteca News, the late Antone Raymus who owned the newspaper along with a friend set up a foundation to help with Aaron’s medical bills.
His parents have a number of funny stories relating to their son driving a car. One day, while he was delivering pizza for Pizza Hut, one of the places where he worked, a police officer who was intrigued as to who was driving the car “because he was so small” and followed him all the way home, recalled his parents with amusement.
“He ended up being four-foot-three,” Martin Morris said.
Last year, he moved to Oklahoma to be closer to his girlfriend. While there he worked at a restaurant on a reservation, and at a General Dollar store.
“He was only there a short time but he left an impression on everybody. They all thought he was a great guy,” Martin said.
While in Oklahoma, his heart condition got worse and he decided to come home. He may also have been thinking about his health problems and his relationship with his girlfriend, Martin surmised.
The week after he came back home to Manteca, he was at Stanford Hospital.
In the last few months, Aaron was in and out of Stanford Medical Center where he underwent surgeries to his arteries. Then he was put on drip medication. When he felt he was nearing the end, he told hospital officials that he wanted to go home. A friend of the Morrises who is a registered nurse came to their home every Thursday to run the drip-medication process for Aaron.
In the end, “his heart just gave out. The doctors tried their best but his heart just didn’t work,” Martin said of his younger son. Older son Marty passed away three years ago. Their three daughters are among the survivors who include 16 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. Aaron never married and did not have any child.
But even with all his health problems and physical shortcomings, “He never complained. He was a fighter his whole life. He fought to the bitter end,” Martin said.