A Manorville girl who suffered a severe brain injury in a car crash that killed her mother and older brother left the hospital and returned home Thursday.
Marialena Trinca, 4, was greeted by cheers as she walked into a conference room at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson.
She kissed her grandmother, handed a toy to her surviving brother, then hugged her dad.
The young girl could not walk, talk, eat or even breathe on her own after a van broadsided her mother's car in Manorville last October, hospital officials said.
"My baby girl fought hard and never gave up, and I am sure that was a major factor in her being able to come home," said her father Jason Trinca, who fought back tears as he spoke with reporters.
Trinca's wife, Keri, and 7-year-old son, Jason, were killed in the same crash near their home.
So far, family members said, no one has told Marialena that her mom and older brother would not be coming home with her.
The girl's uncle, Anthony Trinca, said her first word after the crash was "Mommy."
"Any time she mentions 'Mommy,' we try to divert the conversation to something else," he said.
"She suffered a severe brain injury," said St. Charles doctor Jessica Semel, adding that Marialena's recovery is "nothing short of amazing."
The 4-year-old endured three months of physical, speech and occupational therapy following multiple surgeries at Stony Brook University Hospital.
"As a grandmother, I cried a lot," said Pat Trinca, who stayed with her granddaughter through her recovery. "To see her fighting to walk, fighting to hold a spoon, fighting to feed herself, it's very hard."
Family members credit Marialena's spirit for pulling her through the ordeal. Her nickname is "Fresh," coined because of her feistiness.
Along the way, the staff who worked with Marialena said she entertained them with knock-knock jokes and an infectious smile.
"She's just a great kid who gave us back as much as we gave her," said occupational therapist Stefanie Costa.
"We all expected some recovery but we're astonished at how far she's come," said speech therapist Carrie Pascale.
After the crash, friends, community members and strangers took part in fundraisers and vigils for the Trinca family. So much money was donated, said Jason Trinca, that he was able to stay with his daughter throughout her hospital stay.
"There are no words to express what that meant to me," said Jason Trinca. "I am forever grateful for all the love we received."
Marialena has rehab work left to do, doctors said, but her prognosis for the future is good.
"She's definitely a 4-year-old miracle," said Anthony Trinca.