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Father insists on dancing with this daughter on wedding day, despite nearly dying from meningitis

Posted at 10:52 AM, Jun 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-12 11:52:30-04

GOOD MORNING AMERICA — Father-daughter dances are usually emotional, but for the guests at the wedding of Harmony Walton and Bayo Ajigbotafe, the dance brought on more tears than most.

It was the wedding dance that was very likely never going to happen, Harmony Walton told "Good Morning America."

Harmony Walton's dad, Bruce Walton, is an ex-NFL player. He's also been his daughter's coach in life, she told "GMA."

In 2017, Bruce Walton thought he was sick with the flu. It turned out it was pneumonia. What followed was a series of events that makes it miraculous he was alive to see his daughter marry, much less dance at her wedding.

He collapsed one night and suffered two traumatic brain injuries, resulting in uncontrolled seizures, meningitis and kidney failure. He was put into a medically induced coma for months. Doctors told the family it was time to start thinking about saying goodbye.

"When I was with him in the ICU, one of the things I thought about was how he would never see me get married," she said. "I knew when I met Bayo we would get married, but we weren't engaged yet. I was so sad we hadn't just gotten our act together [and gotten engaged and married]."

The meningitis nearly killed Bruce Walton. But the doctor, Harmony Walton said, had one last drug they could try.

"They called it 'the big gun,'" she said. "If that wasn't going to work, nothing would."

It worked. He lived, but was left completely deaf. As an ex-NFL player and former radio station owner, the combination of needing to use a walker -- he has permanent dizziness, his daughter said -- and his hearing loss was a tough adjustment.

But, Harmony Walton told "GMA," her dad is "the most positive person" she ever met.

It was partially his positive outlook on life and part sheer determination that led her dad to say "let's do it" when she asked him if he wanted to go through with the father-daughter dance on May 10 at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. "I wanted to make sure he knew we didn't have to do it at all. I didn't want him to feel degraded," Harmony Walton said.

Bruce Walton insisted. And so she had him choose the song they would dance to. "I wanted it to be one he remembered the tune since he wouldn't be able to hear it play," she said. Her father chose "Over the Rainbow" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.

James x Schulze Photography was able to photograph the dance.

It started awkwardly, Harmony Walton said. "I was trying to lead and we were just totally off."

So she started mouthing the words to her dad. And then suddenly, they were perfectly in sync. There was barely a dry eye in the house, she said.

"We were totally on the beat. Then came the ugly cry," she said.

"It was very emotional for us both," Bruce Walton told "GMA". "I had zero rhythm with my dance moves but I didn’t care. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life, freeze framed in my mind forever."