PHOENIX — Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny. For 9-year-old Isabella McCune, Monday is the day her new life begins.
"I'm glad that finally the nine months are over," said Isabella, her head barely above the table as she sat in her holiday decorated wheelchair.
"My nurse did it for me," she pronounced proudly.
Last March, she and her family were celebrating St Patrick's Day as thousand of other families do. There was a barbecue, bikes, chairs. And on this chilly evening James McCune, Isabella’s dad, brought out a small fire pit filled with wood. McCune then used lighter fluid to ignite the show.
A fireball erupted, the liquid burning McCune, then Isabella. Both would end up in the hospital--but Isabella was far worse with burns on over 50 percent of her tiny body.
"What seemed like it was hours was only minutes until the first responders came," said Lilly McCune, Isabella’s mother.
But on Monday, after months of agonizing rehab, the countless bandage changes and skin scrubs, she met those first responders again, this time with a heartwarming embrace.
"They're the reason I was so calm because they were being really nice and helpful," said Isabella. When firefighters arrived on scene, Isabella’s neighbor and father had rushed to her aid and put the flames out.
She was rushed to the hospital and put into a medically-induced coma for ten days.
"Everybody kept telling her how strong she was and how much she smiles and stuff like that and one day she told me. 'Daddy I don't want to be strong anymore, I don't want to smile for everybody,'" said James McCune, clearly still reeling from guilt.
But the brave little girl did smile, especially during moments she could have never imagined, specfically a surprise visit from singer Taylor Swift.
"She was as nice as she seems, and she was really tall too," said Isabella with laughter.
But through all the ups and downs--and she faced a lot of both--Isabella says it was the caring of the medical staff that kept her spirits high and provided her with a new path.
"And cause of that I want to be a burn nurse," said Isabella as she listed nearly 17 names of those who stood by her side through it all.
Isabella will finally sleep in her own bed but if the thing she’s said she’s looking forward to most is true, she may not end up there.
“I’m looking forward to sitting on my couch.”