SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas — Ryland Ward isn’t one to sit still.
The now 7-year-old spent most of the afternoon playing in the pool with his family. The scars on his body show he’s a survivor of the 2017 Sutherland Springs church massacre.
A gunman killed 26 people on November 5, 2017, including Ryland’s step-mom and two step-sisters.
Ryland was shot five times. He was airlifted to University Hospital in San Antonio.
Ryland’s mom, Chancie McMahan, said she wrecked her car trying to get to her 5-year-old son.
“It’s a three-hour drive from where I live and I made it in like an hour and 20 minutes,” McMahan recalled.
She remembered waiting to hear if her son survived in a waiting room filled with people.
“Thirty minutes later, she walks out of the door and just points at me, the same person who had just told the other family they had lost somebody, and I lost it. Lost it. Because I thought they were telling me that Ryland was gone,” McMahan said.
McMahan said Ryland was in surgery for 12 hours the first day at the hospital.
“When I finally got to see him, I just cried. I just held his hand and cried. I really wanted to crawl up in the bed with him and just lay with him, but I couldn’t because there was machines everywhere on him,” said McMahan. “It was crazy. I’ve never seen anything like that nor do I want to again.”
Ryland was released after spending months in the hospital.
“That was the greatest day of his life, our lives, everybody’s lives. They gave him the biggest sendoff you could imagine. I mean, it was nuts. They were shutting down highways taking him to Sutherland Springs,” McMahan recalled her son sitting in the front seat of a fire truck while hospital staff waved and cheered from the side of the road.
People lined the street with signs in Sutherland Springs as Ryland rode home in the fire truck.
While there was plenty of excitement surrounding the family, McMahan still worried about her son.
“Him being back in that town with everything that had happened – I didn’t know, nobody knew, where his mindset was going to be,” said McMahan. “And we really still don’t know. He’s living it day by day, and he’s happy, but he was five when it happened. I don’t think he’s fully grasped the concept of what took place.”
McMahan said Ryland doesn’t have any more scheduled surgeries.
“Oh I smile every day. I mean, what’s there not to smile about,” said McMahan. “He’s happy and healthy. That’s all I can ask for.”
Aside from Ryland likely not getting full function of his left arm back, McMahan said he’s recovering well.
She said Ryland wants to be either a firefighter or police officer when he grows up. McMahan said, she thinks, it’s because of what he went through.
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