After months of anguish, there is joy in the Pelletier household.
Fox CT spent the day alongside the family of Justina Pelletier as she returned home for the first time in 16 months.
For the first time, the world is hearing Justina’s take on the custody battle that all began because of differing opinions about her medical condition.
She’s at home now in her parents’ custody without any strings attached.
She’s literally “home free”.
At 10:00 Wednesday morning, Linda Pelletier, drove her daughter Justina out of the Thompson, CT, youth educational facility where she’s lived the past month.
It marked the end of a nightmare for her family.
Sixteen months of life without her daughter was over.
“It’s a very happy moment, the best moment of my entire life,” said Linda Pelletier.
On Tuesday, the Boston Judge presiding over the case officially returned Justina to her parents’ custody.
It was Joseph Johnston, who is the same judge who took custody away from them in February 2013.
After Fox CT aired the Pelletier’s story in November 2013, the case drew national attention, raising questions about parental rights, government intervention and awareness regarding rare disease.
Lou and Linda Pelletier lost custody after they disagreed with a new medical diagnosis and were accused of medical child abuse.
Justina was diagnosed with ‘mitochondrial disease’ years earlier and then she came down with the flu in February 2013.
Her parents admitted her to Boston Children’s Hospital to see a specialist who recently transferred there from Tufts Medical Center.
Tufts Medical Center is where she was originally diagnosed with mitochondrial disease.
But they say that when Justina was admitted, a different team of doctors swooped in and declared Justina had a mental condition called somatoform disorder, not mitochondrial disease.
Her parents argued that diagnosis and were eventually escorted out of the hospital by security.
The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families was called in and they had lost custody within the span of just four days.
However, the family spokesman says Justina’s release proves the family’s innocence all along.
“Today is vindication. This has been the most examined family in the state of Massachusetts and Connecticut and Justina is being released,” says Rev. Patrick Mahoney.
But her return Wednesday, was less about controversy than about coming together with her three sisters, three dogs and her parents.
Eighteen months ago Justina was figure skating but now her legs won’t work, so father Lou, had to carry her inside their home Wednesday.
He then addressed the hoard of media outside.
“We have a whole new battle now in the transition of bringing Justina back to where she was before,” said Lou Pelletier.
Then Justina sat down with Fox CT for a one on one exclusive conversation about the past 16 months in the custody of a different state.
Beau Berman: “How does it feel to be back?”
Justina Pelletier: “Awesome!”
Beau Berman: “It feels good?”
Justina Pelletier: “Yeah! It feels so good to be home.”
Justina Pelletier: “I just… I just don’t know how this really happened because it doesn’t feel like it’s real.”
Beau Berman: “You were gone a LONG time.”
Justina Pelletier: “I know! A long time, a long 16 months.”
Fox CT asked Justina about her time at Boston Children’s Hospital.
“It was crazy oh my gosh. I didn’t have any support there, they didn’t believe me at all especially at Children’s especially when I got on Bader 5,” said Justina.
Justina says she now wants to help other children.
“I want to help a lot of people. It was hard and tough so I don’t want anyone else to be put through the same thing I got put through.”
But first she’ll undergo intensive physical therapy and rehabilitation.
Her parents say her health deteriorated while the hospital took her off necessary medications.
“I will be walking some day and be running, skating and all this other stuff,” said Justina.
Despite 16 months of separation from her family and living away from home against her will, Justina is choosing to celebrate rather than look back.
“A big party, I want a big party – I deserve it – I think I do.”