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Elementary School students in Decatur welcome their “hero” home

DECATUR, Ala. - Friday was a special day for 9-year-old Phoenix Richey who just returned home from the hospital. She's fighting a battle with Stevens Johnson Syndrome & Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis which causes blisters all over a person's body.

"You swell, your skin will kind of blister up, and then there's a word called sloughing," Phoenix's mother Nicole Richey said. "It will slough off so that's why they treat you at a burn unit."

On Friday, the entire Chestnut Grove Elementary School, where she's a student, marched to her house to give her a proper welcome home ceremony.

It's been a hard chapter for her friends, especially Taylor Maddox, Bella Springer and Kaylee Durham.

"It's been really tricky," Maddox said.

"I love her very much and she's the best person I've ever met," Durham said and Springer added, "I love her and she's my bestest friend I could ever ask for."

Brighter days filled Phoenix's family's prayers as she moved from Huntsville Women's and Children's, Children's in Birmingham and to Shriners in Cincinnati.

"We've just held onto each other and I just basically told God, 'she can't go, we have to fix her and you've given me a promise that she's going to be protected and she has plans and hope and a future and so you're gonna do it,'" Richey said.

Because when it's a matter of life and death, faith prepares a third option.

"When you don't know what the next steps will be for her survival, and also don't know what the answers are, faith is the only thing you have," Joey Richey, Phoenix's father, said.

Someday, this brave 9-year-old will hopefully forget the pain these wounds caused, but her friends hope she'll never forget how loved she felt on February 24, 2017.

"She has been a great friend to me and I'm excited for what she does next," Maddox said.

The Stevens Johnson Syndrome affected 65% of Phoenix's body. The family began noticing a change when she carried a low-grade fever the Saturday before medical personnel transferred her to pediatric medical intensive care the following Monday morning and put her on a breathing tube. Her family says the next step is healing her emotionally.