MERCERSBURG, Pa. — After 662 days in Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital, in Baltimore, Maryland, Reese Burdette is home. And her small-town community came together to give her a welcome she will never forget.
“The day she walks out of (Johns Hopkins), she will get a lot of happy and sad faces,” Reese Burdette’s grandmother Patricia Styles, had told Farm and Dairy in an earlier interview. “I’m sure there will be a parade in Mercersburg.”
Style’s prediction was correct. While the staff at Johns Hopkins was sad to see her go, they were happy with the progress she had made. And upon arrival in Mercersburg, March 18, the streets were lined with people welcoming her home.
“It was truly amazing, we can’t put into words how it was and how it made us feel,” said Claire Burdette, Reese’s mother, “to see that many people cheering her on. She is a local celebrity.”
Laura Jackson, Reese’s aunt, has been sharing Facebook updates on Reese’s condition with friends and family — and the growing fan club Reese has picked up along the way. She shared this post the day Reese came home:
“Tonight my heart is full…today Reese came home. Mercersburg really went all out to welcome Reese home. Driving through town to see all of the purple balloons, ribbons, banners, streamers, flags and homemade signs brought out the heavy tears for me. Standing on Main Street waiting for Reese to drive by was an awesome experience. People everywhere were decked out in purple with signs and big smiles. The second the fire trucks rounded the corner to proceed down Main street, their lights were flashing and sirens blaring and people began to cheer and yell…How appropriate that the Clear Brook Fire Department (that) carried Reese and Mom on that May 26th morning and today, the Mercersburg Fire Department escorted Reese home. It is a day our family has prayed for, wished for and dreamt of…”
The day it all changed
Readers may remember the story of Reese (featured in Farm and Dairy, September, 2015), the little girl from Mercersburg, Pennsylvania who was visiting with her grandparents, Patricia and Michael Styles, when a short from an electric cord sent the room she was sleeping in up in flames, May 26, 2014.
Patricia ran through the flames to get her granddaughter and pulled her to safety, but neither knew the extent to which the fire had damaged their bodies right away. Styles suffered burns to 20 percent of her body and spent two months in an intensive care unit at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C.
Reese, however, would spend almost 2 years at Johns Hopkins, recovering from burns to 35 percent of her body, severe lung damage, four cardiac arrests (which resulted in a medically induced coma) and the loss of her leg.
Reese’s spirit never faltered during her long road to recovery. She had many visitors to the hospital including from her favorite Holstein cow, Pantene — who was high on the list to welcome her home.
Pantene and her new heifer calf were one of the first to welcome Reese home when they pulled into the farm drive. She smiled from ear-to-ear as the calf sucked on her fingers, explained Claire.
“There were a few Johns Hopkins staff members that came home with us and I’m sure they were cringing (when Reese put her fingers in the calf’s mouth),” said Claire. Here is this girl who just got out the hospital and “she has her hand in a calf’s mouth.”
Life at home
“We are adjusting to our new normal,” said Claire. “But it is so awesome to be in one zip code…under one roof.”
Reese continues to keep up with her schooling by using a robot, which allows her to have facetime with the teacher and fellow students. A tutor will start working with Reese until she is physically able to attend school.
She has come a long way in her road to recovery, from not being able to breathe on her own, to breathing with little assistance from a ventilator, said Claire.
Reese is learning to walk again and adapt to her prosthetic leg, which she affectionately named Lego. Since her return home, she has had her first outpatient physical therapy, to which Claire said, “We love the word outpatient.”
One of Reese’s, as well as her family’s, goals was to be home for her birthday. “We were beginning to spend double of so many holidays in the hospital, we did not want her birthday to be one of them,” said Claire. Reese spent her ninth birthday at home, surrounded by her family, March 20.
She already has a new goal in mind, explained Claire. She plans to show Pantene’s calf in the Pennsylvania State Holstein Show in Harrisburg this September. In the meantime, Claire said, “she is excited about going out and helping me plant the garden.”
Her recent “celebrity” status has caught the family off guard a time or two. Claire said, upon taking her to her outpatient therapy, located in the next county over, she was surprised at the welcome they received.
“To so many, she is a local, little celebrity,” said Claire. But no matter how famous she gets, her mother won’t let it get to her head.
“As she gets stronger, she is still going to have chores. I don’t care how famous she is,” Claire said.
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