6-year-old boy wounded in Texas church shooting leaves hospital

By Sara Shayanian  |  Jan. 11, 2018 at 12:54 PM
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Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Ryland Ward, a 6-year-old who was shot five times during the massacre at a rural Sutherland Springs, Texas, church this fall, was released from the hospital Thursday.

Ward was found by Rusty Duncan, a member of the Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department, after gunman Devin Kelly shot and killed 26 people and injured 20 more.

On Nov. 5, the young boy was found alive beneath his stepmother, Joann Ward, who died shielding him with her body. Duncan only knew the boy was alive when Ward tugged on his pant leg.

"I was just checking for survivors, and I felt a little tug on my pant leg," Duncan told the San Antonio Express-News. "I had no idea what it was. I looked down and a little hand was coming from under somebody. That's when I moved her and saw him."

Duncan says the boy had "glassy eyes" and "stared up" at him while he rushed him to the ambulance.

"The whole time I was with him, he was conscious and staring up at me. The whole time," Duncan said.

A survivor of the worst mass shooting in Texas history, Ward was rushed to the intensive care unit at San Antonio's University Hospital where he remained for more than two months.

According to Duncan, Ward was "heavily sedated" throughout most of his time at the hospital and went through "surgery after surgery."

Sutherland Springs residents are expected to line the streets for Ward's homecoming Thursday.

"When I found out yesterday that they would go ahead and release him, it was really an overwhelming feeling of joy that he would be able to go out and go home. To get his life back to as normal as possible," Earl McMahan, Ward's great-uncle, said.

The little boy, who celebrated Christmas in the hospital and received 1,000 holiday cards from throughout the world, will be escorted out of the hospital by Duncan in a firetruck.

"He couldn't wait to get out the hospital. People at the hospital were nice and everything, but he turned 6 years old and had Christmas in there, and he just wanted to get out and get back to being kid," McMahan said.

Ward reportedly has 15 percent use of his left hip and drags his left leg as he tries to walk.

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

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