Two-year-old Kaylyn Ervin spent a month in the hospital, recovering from a severe case of pneumonia that kept her in the intensive case unit for much of her stay. But today, on Christmas Eve, the toddler with the soft brown eyes will be back home surrounded by Christmas presents and family members.
"It's truly a blessing to have her to come home," said her grandmother, Barbara Ervin, who suffered the death of her husband, Kaylyn's grandfather, in October.
"I know this is a miracle from God. We have had lots of prayers sent up for her."
The staff at Palmetto Health Children's Hospital has worked this week to send as many recovering children home as medically possible in time for Christmas. But Sally Wilkes, a child life specialist at the hospital, said this year has been difficult.
"Pretty much every floor is full," she said. Even the fourth floor, which normally houses adolescents and has a playroom full of popular gaming systems and iPods, has had to make room for small children, including Kaylyn.
"If they can go home, we try to get them out of here," Wilkes said.
Carrying Kaylyn home from the hospital will be a welcome task for Kaylyn's mother, Deidra Ervin, who has spent many nights at Palmetto Health watching over her daughter, who was hospitalized Nov. 22.
"She had a temperature of 103" degrees, Deidra Ervin recalled. "From Friday to Saturday, I tried to get it down." But when the child began vomiting, she rushed her to the hospital's emergency room.
Fortunately for Deidra Ervin, her civilian job at Fort Jackson was on hiatus through the New Year so she could devote herself to Kaylyn's care. But she also has a 3-year-old daughter, Kaleah, at home. Her mother, Barbara Ervin, stepped in to keep the home they share going.
Barbara Ervin said she sought the prayers of her co-workers at the Eastminster Presbyterian Church day school as well as the pastoral staff, which she believes contributed to Kaylyn's recovery.
Despite the medical trials, which also included a bout with the highly contagious respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, Deidra Ervin was all smiles as hospital personnel began preparations for her child's release.
"It's a step in the right direction," she said.
Nurse Lindsay Cairns coaxed two vials of medicine into the quiet little girl, pleased that Kaylyn was willing to take her medication.
Kaylyn's hospital room was decorated with a small Christmas tree and a Mickey Mouse stocking to remind her of the season.
And while the little girl is "still a little loungy," said her aunt, Gabrielle Ervin, "we are all sitting up here with smiling faces.
"With us losing our father October 18th, it means a lot to have her coming home," she said.
Barbara Ervin will be cooking Christmas dinner, a feast that includes ham, turkey, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, cakes and pies.
Deidra Ervin said the family has a tradition of staying up late on Christmas Eve and into Christmas morning, when they gather to open presents and share family stories.
Most likely, little Kaylyn will be asleep at midnight on Christmas Eve, but that's just fine. She'll be at home, in her own bed.