Six years after leaving Hawke's Bay for a million dollar, life-saving operation, Matisse Reid has returned home to a brighter future.
Hawke's Bay Airport erupted into applause and cheers yesterday as the 12-year-old and her family appeared at the door of an aeroplane and walked across the tarmac into the arms of loved ones - close to 50 had gathered to welcome them home.
Matisse and her parents, Jodee and Wayne, and brothers Fraanz and Kalani, packed their bags for Pittsburgh, USA, six years ago to seek life-saving medical treatment for Matisse, who was born with a rare intestinal condition depriving her of the ability to digest food.
Matisse lived in excruciating pain and was fed through a tube until the opportunity for the operation that last night meant she could have fish and chips and hokey pokey ice cream for her homecoming dinner.
"They really changed Matisse's life over there," said Mrs Reid.
"It just doesn't seem real yet, it's so strange for us to be back. Some of our family we haven't seen for six years and it has been really hard for everyone here.
"We made lots of good friends and surrogate families so it was sad leaving everyone behind.
"We left home to come home is what we have been saying, it's a new beginning for everybody."
The family uprooted their lives and resettled in America in 2007, where Matisse underwent a stomach, duodenum, pancreas, small and large bowel transplant in December 2010.
She has been in and out of hospital ever since, dealing with complications from the major procedure.
Matisse said it was a bittersweet departure.
"It's cool to be home but it's a little bit sad to leave our American friends," she said.
However, she had much to look forward to: "I haven't seen my family together for six years, and our house is near the beach so my dad said he is going to teach me to surf."
A brighter outlook wasn't the only thing Matisse returned home with - she now has an American accent, and is still carrying her good luck charm, Barney the Dinosaur, in her backpack.
Matisse's plight has been widely supported by the Hawke's Bay community and generous New Zealand and international donors who helped raise money for her operation.
The family were blown away last year when notorious celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay gave $100,000 in lieu of an appearance at a charity dinner to raise funds for Matisse.