Best Christmas gift ever
PLAY dough littering the table, happy play wafting from the bedrooms and two relaxed parents pottering in the kitchen - it was so close to being a different story for the Devereaux family this Christmas.
Gympie mother to seven, Tracey Devereaux, who spent more than two months in a Brisbane hospital knocking on death's door, returned to her Gympie home on Sunday.
"We've got Tracey back," Tracey's husband Bruce said.
"So many people are having very different Christmases to us."
The determined 39-year-old defied doctors, nurses and all manner of specialists to overcome a number of critical diagnoses that had her family expecting the worse.
On what was a normal day three months ago, Tracey experienced sudden pain in her stomach.
It turned out to be an aneurysm in her stomach, which she was later told had likely been there since she was born but was just waiting to strike.
As blood leaked into her stomach cavity, Tracey was rushed from Gympie to Nambour Hospital, but during an operation an artery got blocked, and Tracey was airlifted to Brisbane.
Over the next week or so things turned from bad to worse.
Tracey was put in an induced coma while her bowel was slowly dying and she suffered perforations of the bowel and a huge infection.
The unfolding horror peaked for the family when Tracey's infection intensified and the family was told to prepare for the worst.
In what was an incredibly tough choice, Bruce took their children, who had been looked after by relatives in Gympie for three weeks while Bruce stayed by Tracey's side in hospital, to the hospital to say goodbye to their mother.
While it may have been one of the hardest things the father of seven had to do, it may have also been instrumental in saving their mother's life.
Coupled with a very high dose of antibiotics, Tracey's condition slowly and against all medical odds, started to improve.
At last she came out of her coma.
She described how she had had very real dreams about being dead.
She had to learn to walk again, learn to sit up and was told she may be fed by a tube for the rest of her life.
But now after 38 days in intensive care and 10 operations, she is at home eating normally, albeit in small and frequent doses.
She has huge scars, two temporary external bags that help her bowel process waste and a number of operations to come. But none of it matters, Tracey said.
"I was really happy to wake up. I don't care if I've got scars; I've got the kids.
"I feel like this is my second chance."
And when five little faces were asked what the best thing about Christmas was, the chorused answer was simple: "Mummy was home."