BALTIMORE (WUSA9) -- Two years after she was severely burned in a fire and just in time for her ninth birthday on Sunday, it's time for Reese Burdette to go home.
Reese has spent the past 662 days at Johns Hopkins Children's Hospital's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, recovering from severe burns she suffered in a fire at her grandparents' home over Memorial Day weekend in 2014.
She was burned on more than 35 percent of her body, spent four months in a coma and sustained damage to her heart and lungs from smoke inhalation, the Public Opinion reports. During her time in the hospital, she endured five cardiac arrests, daily blood transfusions, internal bleeding, collapsed lungs, and surgeries to repair holes in her lungs.
Her school and the surrounding community have rallied around her all along, forming "Team Reese" and raising money for her medical expenses and just keeping her spirits up.
Despite the injuries and recuperation, Reese has been able to attend school at Mercersburg Elementary School using a virtual presence device to view what was taking place in the classroom. Reese has been using the robot since last October. This all came after Reese missed more than a year's worth of school due to her injuries.
Friday, Reese went home to Mercersburg, Pennsylvania where she was greeted by a huge parade. Doctors and nurses were in tears as Reese climbed into her parent’s car and left the hospital. It was a tough goodbye to a girl so selfless, she tried to stop doctors from cutting off her pajamas because they belonged to her cousin NeNe, and Reese was worried NeNe would be upset.
“It's like bringing her home again when she was born,” Claire Burdette, her mother, said, crying softly before the family left the pediatric intensive care unit.
Reese was escorted by the Mercersburg Fire Department through town once her family arrives. The family will meet the fire department at Montgomery Elementary School on Pa. 75 first and will then head north, stopping at Mercersburg Elementary and then on through downtown Mercersburg before finally returning to her family's home.
Reese was sleeping over with her grandparents in Winchester, Virginia over Memorial Day weekend 2014 when an electrical short touched off an intense blaze in her room.
When her dad got to the hospital, she was barely alive.
“That's a feeling sometimes when you close your eyes and see that, you will never lose that memory,” said Justin Burdette.
“She has the most strength and beauty I have ever seen in a person, despite what she’s been through,” said Dr. Kristen Nelson, who looked after her in the ICU.
Reese’s lung completely collapsed from the damage she suffered in the intense heat of the fire. The Children’s Center an unprecedented kind of heart-lung bypass system that they used for Reese.
“There were many times we were called in and they said, you need to say your goodbyes. But Reese rallied. Reese rallied like no other,” Claire said.
When she finally awoke, dad asked her about her favorite cow on the family farm in Pennsylvania. “Will you get mad at dad if he sells Pantene?” he asked in a video the family posted to YouTube. Reese nodded through the tubes that were keeping her alive.
Instead of selling Pantene, her dad brought the cow to the hospital. Another first.
Nurses called Reese the mayor of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, always racing around on her bike with her heart-lung machine attached, handing out candy to the other children.
“I want to give other people hope. I want Reese to be an inspiration to them. Never give up. Never lose faith,” Claire said.
Reese has plenty of challenges ahead, she’s still on a ventilator and she needs dialysis. But her parents say she’s survived the hospital, and they can get through the rest.
Reese's 9th birthday is Sunday. Her hometown of Mercersburg, Pennsylvania is already decked out in purple, and they're planning a birthday party for the little girl who never gave up.