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Sarah Stultz: Nontraditional holiday leads to grateful heart

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Tuesday.

I felt the tears begin to roll down my cheeks as I sat in the passenger seat of a Gold Cross ambulance Saturday evening on the way to St. Marys Hospital in Rochester.

After nine months seizure-free, my son, Landon, had suffered more unexpected seizures last week,  and doctors had recommended to have him monitored for the night at St. Marys Hospital. 

Merry Christmas, right?

Christmas was already going to be challenging this year without our 8-year-old daughter, Sophie, who died in July. This trip to Rochester pushed the stress level even higher.

I felt helpless but hoped we could receive some answers about what might have triggered the new seizures and why Landon’s medicine was no longer preventing them.

Landon had what was believed to be two seizures on Thursday and then had his third around noon on Saturday.

We had arrived at the home of our extended family on the north side of town to pick up my sister-in-law and niece to go see a movie in the theater. As we waited for them to come out to the car, all of a sudden little Landon began seizing.

We had witnessed seizures before with Landon, so we knew what to expect and how we should respond.

I carried him into the house and laid him down on his side, and a few minutes later the seizure ended.

After some time passed, he woke up, and we decided to take him into the emergency room to be checked out. The doctors had increased his medication on Thursday, and it was concerning for him to have another seizure so soon.

The doctor at the emergency room began conversing with doctors in Rochester, and a few hours later we found out the news we would be spending at least Christmas Eve and Christmas morning in the hospital. The doctors said they would be more comfortable if Landon could be in Rochester in the event he had another seizure.

As we began the all-too-familiar drive to Rochester, I let out a sigh. I was sad we would not be able to give Landon a fun Christmas morning as we would be stuck in the hospital.

When we arrived, the nurses got us all set up in his room for the night, and then we walked down the hall to a playroom set up for the children staying there. As I sat on the couch in that room as Landon played, we heard carolers in the distance. Their singing got louder and louder, until soon enough the carolers had stopped right in front of the door to say hello and begin another song. Landon and a few other children playing stopped what they were doing and walked over to the carolers.

I felt another tear slide down my cheek.

Soon, the carolers continued down the hall to sing to other children and their families.

The next morning, when we woke up, we discovered someone had left a Beanie Baby of Sven, the reindeer from “Frozen,” at the foot of Landon’s bed. Shortly after, a nurse walked in carrying more gifts. A family who had stayed at the hospital previously had donated handmade blankets and Mickey Mouse stuffed animals for each of the children, as well as a gift card to a restaurant for the parents.

The hospital later that morning hosted a breakfast for all of the families with children there, where additional gifts were given.

Though we were unable to be at home for our traditional Christmas,  my heart swelled with gratitude for all of those who went out of their way to make our Christmas special. The feeling in my heart that day is one I will not soon forget.

I was reminded of a quote from the classic “How the Grinch Stole Christmas:”

“It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

At that moment, I was grateful to be in a place that could spread that Christmas cheer, and I was grateful — no matter the circumstances — that we were together.