How Christmas on the cardiac ward taught me to be thankful

The run-up to Christmas can be a very stressful time – so much to do, cards to write, presents to buy, parties to attend – busy, busy, busy. This time four years ago though, we could barely focus on the festive season.   All around us, it seemed everyone was excited about Christmas, but for us there was a huge obstacle in its way. Our three-month old daughter was about to undergo her second open-heart surgery.

How Christmas on the cardiac ward taught me to be thankful - Little Hearts, Big Love

While everyone else seemed to be caught up in the hustle and bustle, we focused on family time and making memories. Enjoying the time we still had together; not knowing what the future would bring.


While those around us were doing their Christmas shopping, we were praying in a hospital chapel, pacing the floor – trying to fill those endless hours whilst our baby was in theatre.


Those last few shopping days before Christmas were spent sitting beside a cot on the paediatric intensive care unit as our daughter recovered from surgery.

How Christmas on the cardiac ward taught me to be thankful - Little Hearts, Big Love

The biggest excitement on Christmas Eve was our daughter being well enough to move from intensive care to high dependency.


We sent only a handful of cards; what little Christmas shopping we did was done in one afternoon when we managed to leave the hospital for a few hours.


When I woke up on Christmas morning, I found a stocking next to my daughter’s cot with a few small gifts from Father Christmas. Hubby and I had not been forgotten either – there was something for each of us. Just a small present but it meant a lot.


We spent most of Christmas Day by our daughter’s cot. She gave us the best gift ever that morning – the first smile since her surgery. Being able to enjoy cuddles with her again after over a week of not being able to hold her at all was utterly blissful.

How Christmas on the cardiac ward taught me to be thankful - Little Hearts, Big Love

Hubby’s parents came to visit, bringing Christmas dinner with them. We had been given the key to a friends’ house. They were away for Christmas, but invited us into their home, so that we could enjoy our Christmas dinner there, in comfy and cosy surroundings. A brief time to step away from the hospital routine and recharge our batteries. Later than evening, another friend visited, bearing presents and food – taking time out of her own family Christmas to help make ours better.


We weren’t just surrounded by machines, tubes and wires; we were surrounded by love and prayers, family and friends, thoughtfulness and kindness.


I learned more about the real meaning of Christmas that year than in all the other Merry Christmases I’d experienced.


I learned that it didn’t matter where we spent Christmas; the fact that we were together was really all that mattered.


I learned just how kind and generous people could be.


I learned that the best gifts were those that money could never buy – a smile, a cuddle, the love and support of family and friends.


I learned that Christmas didn’t have to be perfect to be magical – as long as there was love, there would be magic.


I learned to be thankful for what I had, to enjoy the moment and to focus on the things that really were important.


Being in hospital was not where I would have ever chosen to spend our first Christmas as a family, but the memory of it is a beautiful one. There was love, there was joy and there was magic. We had each other and therefore we had everything.

How Christmas on the cardiac ward taught me to be thankful - Little Hearts, Big Love

Little Hearts Big Love

32 thoughts on “How Christmas on the cardiac ward taught me to be thankful

  1. This is such a beautiful post and I hope when your daughter’s old enough you’ll share it with her. Everything else is insignificant when someone close to you is poorly. My mum was ill several Christmases ago but it turned out to be a memorable one as we heard on Christmas Eve that she was going to be OK. We were so relieved that our lack of preparation for Christmas didn’t matter at all. I hope this Christmas is a brilliant one for you and your family x

    1. Thank you Izzie and I’m so glad that you had good news on Christmas Eve when your mum was poorly. Experiences like that really do bring home just what is really important at this time of year x

  2. Louise, I’m reading this with tears streaming down my face. Little Jessica looks so helpless, and your words are packed with what the real sentiment of Christmas is all about. This is just beautiful.

    x x x


  3. Well I can’t type very well as your post has made me cry which is pretty much a first. What a beautiful and poignant post that just puts everything else into perspective. I cannot imagine how tough that Christmas must have been, but thank you for sharing it. Your little girl is a superstar. Merry Christmas. Dawn x #coolmumclub

    1. Thank you so much Dawn – she really is a little superstar and I’m so thankful to be looking forward to another Christmas with her. Sorry for making you cry though! x

  4. What a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to spend Christmas in hospital with your little one, but it’s so wonderful to read about how your time there was full of love, joy and magic despite, or maybe because of, your experience. I guess for many of us the true meaning of Christmas can often seem a little lost among all the bustle and consumerism. But your beautiful, heartfelt post can remind all of us of what is most important in life.
    I wish you and your family all the very best.

    1. Thank you so much – it was really hard to be in hospital but Christmas Day itself was wonderful – we were just so thankful that we were all together and nothing else mattered other than that x

  5. What a scary experience but you’re right, the holiday really means being with family and supporting each other, and that is exactly what you had. *HUGS* to the little fighter and all her surgeries.

    1. Thank you Julie – the fact that we were all together made it special even though it was spent in hospital. So thankful to be looking forward to another Christmas together x

  6. Beautifully written and so so true! We were lucky to be in hospital before and after Christmas (enjoyed seeing in the new year with yourselves 🙂 ) and that definitely taught us to just be grateful for the opportunity to spend a new year together and not worry what material things the new year would bring xx

    1. Thank you so much Laura – things like this definitely make you realise how lucky you are just to be together. That new year was certainly a memorable one – I still giggle when I think about us all sneaking off to the quiet room for some champagne like naughty teenagers! Hope you and your family are all well xx

  7. Oh my days Louise, what a truly beautiful post.
    Tears are flowing, I can only imagine how hard those times were for you both.
    She is such a little fighter and I wish her the very best of health for the future.
    A little Superstar xx

    1. Thank you Jayne – I’m finding it quite emotional looking at my Timehop at the moment and remembering it all – makes me so thankful to be able to enjoy Christmas at home x

  8. This is really lovely and I’m so glad you can look back on that first difficult Christams with gratitude. For people that habitually look for the silver lining, sometimes the worst of times can also be the best of times 🙂

  9. Oh my goodness I have just cried reading this. Thanks for flagging on #totsgoodreads, I have added this heartfelt post.

    1. Thank you for including my post in #TotsGoodReads Emma, sorry for making you cry though.

  10. I have shed so many tears… We are about to spend our littlest’s first Christmas in hospital. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    I hope that ours will be as special and as memorable. (Well the memorable part is guaranteed!)

    1. Thank you Beth – hope you will make some special memories in spite of being in hospital for Rainbow’s first Christmas. Thinking of you all xx

  11. Beautiful words I will stop complaining and be grateful for everything

    1. Thank you – I have to confess I don’t quite manage to be grateful for everything – there are still many days when I complain about things too! 🙂

  12. What a lovely post. You must be a truly special person to find such beauty in what must have been a really heartbreaking time and how nice that the hospital thought to leave you and your husband a little gift for christmas as well as your daughter. Far too often in situations like yours, the parents are completely forgotten about which is a shame because quite often during these times the parents are suffering just as much as the child. Hugs to you all. Wishing you a much better christmas this year 🙂


    1. Thank you Janine – it was lovely that the hospital remembered us too – I was so thrilled that they left a stocking for Jessica and never thought for one minute that we would be included in that too.

  13. What a moving post. You’re right, it is a big reminder to be thankful and not sweat the small stuff. Love to you all. #TwinklyTuesday

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