Firetruck brings boy shot in Texas church massacre home from hospital

PHOTO: Sutherland Springs shooting victim Ryland Ward poses from his wheelchair outside University Hospital, Jan. 11, 2018.PlayUniversity Health System
WATCH Boy shot in Texas church massacre rides home from hospital on firetruck

A little boy who was shot in the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church massacre arrived home today -- riding through town on a firetruck -- after more than two months in the hospital.

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PHOTO: Sutherland Springs shooting victim Ryland Ward takes his ride home in a firetruck after his release from the hospital, Jan. 11, 2018.University Health System
Sutherland Springs shooting victim Ryland Ward takes his ride home in a firetruck after his release from the hospital, Jan. 11, 2018.

On Nov. 5, a gunman stormed the rural First Baptist Church, leaving 26 dead, according to police, who have included an unborn child in the death count. The attack was deemed the worst mass shooting in Texas history.

PHOTO: Investigators work at the scene of a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Nov. 5, 2017.Jay Janner/Statesman.com via AP
Investigators work at the scene of a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Nov. 5, 2017.

Among the injured was now-6-year-old Ryland Ward, who was shot several times.

PHOTO: Ryland Ward, 5, was shot in the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church massacre, Nov. 5, 2017.Family handout
Ryland Ward, 5, was shot in the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church massacre, Nov. 5, 2017.

Volunteer firefighter Rusty Duncan was a first responder that day, and he told ABC News he was the one who found Ryland and pulled him to safety.

Once he rushed inside the church, he went through the aisles and "started checking for people's pulses," Duncan said. "That's where Ryland's hand reached out from under his stepmom and grabbed my pant leg. I rolled her over and grabbed him and started running outside with him."

"As soon as we got him outside, his dad [Chris Ward] ran up to me and said, 'They killed my baby.' "And I told his dad, 'No, he's not dead, he's still alive,'" Duncan said. "Unfortunately his wife and two girls were actually gone."

Chris Ward's wife and Ryland's stepmother, Joann Lookingbill Ward, was among the dead, as well as Joann Lookingbill Ward's daughters, Brooke Bryanne Ward, 5, and Emily Garcia, 7.

PHOTO: Memorials in Sutherland Springs, Texas, for those shot and killed in the massacre at the First Baptist Church there Nov. 5, 2017.Gina Sunseri/ABC News
Memorials in Sutherland Springs, Texas, for those shot and killed in the massacre at the First Baptist Church there Nov. 5, 2017.

PHOTO: Memorials in Sutherland Springs, Texas, for those shot and killed in the massacre at the First Baptist Church there Nov. 5, 2017.Gina Sunseri/ABC News
Memorials in Sutherland Springs, Texas, for those shot and killed in the massacre at the First Baptist Church there Nov. 5, 2017.

Ryland was rushed to the hospital and soon the young boy's mother reached out to Duncan, the firefighter said.

"I met with her and talked to her then I was actually able to go to the hospital and see him for the first time," about a week after the shooting, Duncan said.

"He was heavily sedated," Duncan said, going through "surgery after surgery."

Duncan said he continued to visit the little boy at the hospital, including this week.

"He's doing great," Duncan said. "He walked for me for the first time. Of course with my help, but he walked."

PHOTO: Ryland Ward, 5, was shot in the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church massacre, Nov. 5, 2017.Family handout
Ryland Ward, 5, was shot in the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church massacre, Nov. 5, 2017.

Ryland's grandmother, Sandy Ward, told ABC News that Ryland is trying to walk but keeps dragging his left foot and he also has limited use of his hip.

"He's a character," Duncan said. "This little boy has the best fighting spirit I've ever seen out of anybody in my entire life. He's kept me going this whole time. Even when I was giving up ... just thinking about him and being around him makes me smile."

PHOTO: Sparky the dog greets Sutherland Springs shooting victim Ryland Ward outside University Hospital, Jan. 11, 2018.University Health System
Sparky the dog greets Sutherland Springs shooting victim Ryland Ward outside University Hospital, Jan. 11, 2018.

The "fighting spirit" turned 6 while he was in the hospital.

According to University Hospital, Ryland was the facility's final patient from the Sutherland Springs shooting.

"It's just a miracle he survived and is doing as well as he is," Sandy Ward said on Wednesday. "We're just excited to get him to come home."

Today, Ryland was discharged from the hospital and was treated with a special ride home in a firetruck.

Sutherland Springs community members gathered in wait, holding signs including "Welcome home handsome" and "Yay buddy."

"Welcome home!" they screamed as the police escort -- and finally the firetruck carrying Ryland -- arrived in town.

"Just happy the Lord brought him home and he's doing good," one emotional Sutherland Springs resident told ABC San Antonio affiliate KSAT. "Total joy. This is our town, this is our family."

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