Triple-Amputee and Mother-of-5 Relishing a 'Normal Christmas' After Nearly Dying 2 Years Ago

"I never thought in a million years I could just have a normal holiday again," Kristan Seaford tells PEOPLE

Photo: Courtesy Kristan Seaford

There is chaos in the Seaford house. And that’s just the way mom of five, Kristan, likes it.

Oldest daughter Caroline, 9, is playing a Christmas song on the piano. The youngest in the family, 3-year-old Jeannie, is crunching on a candy cane, leaving a trail of peppermint in her wake, and 12-year-old Ben is trying to organize his sisters at the kitchen table where they are forming an assembly line to make candy cane reindeer.

“I never thought we d be back to this. I never thought in a million years I could just have a normal holiday again. Well, normal meaning chaotic,” Kristan Seaford, laughs. “But I love chaos!”

Just two years ago, doctors told her family to prepare to say goodbye to the devoted mother.

“Everybody was scared,” Caroline remembers.

The former marathoner from Matthews, North Carolina, had the flu, which turned in to sepsis. To save her life, doctors had to remove part of her left leg below the knee, as well as much of her right foot and both her hands.

The 40-year-old now wears prosthetics, but in the beginning, she worried about how she would care for her family. But now, she is driving, can go grocery shopping and is even wrapping Christmas presents.

“I am helping get dinner on the table – just the fact that I’m eating my own food, that I’m independent and can do it myself, that right there is wonderful because I was always scared that I would be a burden. That s the part that s really amazing and joyful for me – being able to do for myself, she tells PEOPLE.

Kristan is also learning to use a robotic hand that she controls through her nerve endings. It is slow going but will help with texting on a cell phone and other daily tasks once the busy mom gets the hang of it.

The petite brunette is also becoming an in-demand motivational speaker. Of the audiences she stands in front of she tells PEOPLE, “When they see me and hear my story, they realize they can go through their day and think, ‘This isn t that hard. I mean, if she can do the laundry, I can do the laundry. If she can get her 3 year old dressed and on the potty and off the potty, then I can do that too.’ I think what also translates is that what happened to me could happen to anybody.”

Her husband Brook Seaford, 40, is in awe of his wife’s strength. “I’ve been so impressed with how she gets up every morning and greets the day with a positive attitude when there could be so much that she has to overcome every day. It inspires me, he tells PEOPLE

She s also an inspiration to their five children.

“She really motivates everybody,” Caroline says.

Ben is the one who found his mom unconscious and turning blue two years ago, and was old enough to understand just how close they came to losing her. He understands better than the younger ones just how special it is to be able to sit around the kitchen table singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” as they make funny little candy cane treats.

“We’re pretty much back to normal, as far as the new normal is,” he says.

Kristan loves every minute of the new normal.

“Sometimes I blink and I look around and I just take shots in my head, and think, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m doing this,’ ” she says. “This is what I’m seeing and doing and I am really grateful for every moment I have with the kids.”

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