When Christmas was Different



Every Christmas Eve my family and I travel to Tuscaloosa, AL to spend Christmas Eve with my husband’s family. We look forward to that night every year. It is a full house full of amazing food, presents, fireworks, and lots of laughter. My kids especially enjoy spending time with their cousins and putting on the “Christmas play.” So, Christmas Eve 2019 was anticipated and looking to be a great evening. When we arrived at the house we all rushed in with our arms full of gifts and casserole dishes, hugging necks and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. Let the chaos begin! Well, unfortunately, this Christmas eve and Christmas day were going to turn out very differently. 

For context, one of my daughters had a tumor as an infant. Due to the location of the tumor, it caused some challenges and in November of 2019, we chose to have a medical device placed called a CHAIT to help her out. The surgery went well and she has recovered nicely.

December 25, 2019

The Problem

When we arrived at the house and started piling in, my daughter almost immediately ran up to me in tears. I couldn’t imagine what had happened in the time-frame it took for us to walk from the car to the entryway of the house. The outfit she had chosen somehow got tangled in her device and pulled it completely out. Since we were new to this we were very alarmed and slightly panicked. I made a quick call to the on-call doctor at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. He assured us that she wasn’t in any danger and that we could enjoy our evening; however, we needed to make it back by 10:00 p.m. to check in for an overnight stay and early morning surgery.

As you can imagine we were upset that the two of us would be waking up in the hospital on Christmas morning rather than our cozy house. I love Christmas morning! My in-laws and parents come over, I cook a big Christmas breakfast, and we all watch the kids open gifts. We sip mimosas and never take off our pajamas for the entirety of the day. That was obviously not going to happen this year.

Before Surgery

The Disappointment

While we were driving back to Birmingham, my husband and I made a plan of action. I would give him the details about who got what from Santa and how everything should be arranged. I told him what breakfast was already prepped, along with what time and temperature the other items needed for the oven. My parents would meet us at the hospital first thing on Christmas morning to help me out. So many sweet neighbors and friends volunteered to help out in any way they could. We dropped off the others, then my daughter and I made our way to Children’s Hospital where we checked in for the night. That night was long and exhausting. There were tears and sadness. We both were sad about what we were going to miss the next morning. Worries about how Santa would find her burned through her mind.

Santa arrived!


Thankfully we are incredibly fortunate to live five minutes from one of the most amazing Children’s Hospitals in the country! They made us as comfortable as possible and assured my daughter that Santa would not forget her. After a very early morning surgery, my parents brought me a hot breakfast with a much-needed cup of coffee and Santa had magically dropped off several gifts for my daughter. There were carols and special visits from hospital staff. It truly was magical. It was definitely not what we planned, but now that we look back, we both agree that it was one of our best Christmas memories yet. 

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Kristen is an Alabama native, sort of. As the daughter of a military man, she was born in England and spent the first 5 years of her life there, but Alabama has always been her "true" home. She was raised from then on in Wetumpka, Alabama, which is famous for the movie "Big Fish" and most recently the town was chosen to have a remodel by Ben and Erin Napier, who are stars of the HGTV show "Hometown". Kristen graduated in 2004 from Auburn University where she met her husband Jeff; they've been married 15 years. They have four children together, ages 12, 10, 10, and 3 and reside in Homewood. Kristen has had a versatile career which extends from owning a local fabric/sewing shop in Homewood, AL to recently working as a Team Lead for the popular babysitting app.