5-year-old Sutherland Springs victim: 'Bad man shot JoJo and shot me'

By Mariah Medina - Digital Journalist

SAN ANTONIO - Family of 5-year-old Ryland Ward said he's doing better and will likely be out of the hospital before February.

Ryland has been the hospital since Nov. 5 when a gunman opened fire on the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs killing 26, including an unborn child and injuring others including Ryland. 

Ryland was shot five times. His step mother, JoAnn Ward, and siblings, Brooke Ward, 5, and Emily Garza, 7, were killed in the shooting. Ryland's sister Rihanna was also in the congregation at the time of the shooting, but was unharmed.

Ryland's great uncle Earl McMahan and grandmother Laura Barker addressed media regarding Ryland's condition and growing Christmas card collection.

"Everything has come out okay," Earl said. "They're working on his arm -- his intestines are alright. He's got surgery today. They're actually going to go in and look at his kidney, make sure everything is functioning right. They had to do a surgery they had to put a stint in the ureter and it's held up so we're hoping that it stays and he progresses to get better."

Earl said if all goes well with those procedures, they'll move on to Ryland's leg. The 5-year-old has a brace on his leg with screws and pins from his hip down to his femur. He has also received skin grafts for his arm.

Through all of the pain, Earl said Ryland is in good spirits and thanked the staff at University Hospital for their efforts to make Ryland comfortable.

"From day one they fought to keep him alive and harder to actually stay alive," Earl said. "We really can't put into words how we feel about that. These people here are awesome -- just awesome."

While initial reports suggested Ryland wasn't aware of what happened to his step mother and siblings, Earl said he woke up after surgery and said, "Bad man shot JoJo and shot me." Ryland called his step mom "JoJo."

The family said they don't try to ask him about what happened in the church and that they will talk to him when he is ready or when he starts asking questions.

Ryland's grandma, Laura, said they are looking into home schooling whenever he gets out of the hospital.

Earl said the family is holding up well despite the tragedy and that as long Ryland is in good spirits, they will be too.

Earlier this month, Ryland's other grandma Sandy told KSAT Ryland's Christmas wish was to receive Christmas cards with a dollar inside.

Since then, Ryland has received between 2,000 and 3,000 Christmas cards from across the nation.

"I brought him a couple cards the other day and I had a bag that had a little gift in it and he looked at it real quick and he wanted the cards," Earl said. "He just loves tearing into them and reading them."

Related: Family of Sutherland Springs church shooting victim thank community for support

Ryland's family was saving the money in the cards to buy him a go kart, but on Monday Earl said he was informed someone had already purchased him the go kart. Earl said like any 5-year-old, Ryland gets excited about the dollar bills he receives in the cards.

Those interested in sending Ryland a card can mail their card to the following address:

Ryland Ward
University Hospital
4502 Medical Drive, San Antonio, TX

Whether he'll make a full recovery is unknown, but Earl said he's already shooting Nerf guns in his hospital room and seems to be back to his 5-year-old self.

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