Christmas Eve for most families means dreams of the gifts they will get the next morning. But for one Sabre Springs family, who almost lost two of their loved ones on Thanksgiving, the focus is on what they already have.
The Gilbert family of Sabre Springs almost lost their only parent and oldest sibling in a devastating car crash on a rainy Interstate 405 on Thanksgiving Day.
On that day, the family's patriarch, Jason Gilbert, went to pick up his daughter Alexa Gilbert, 21, at Los Angeles International Airport. Alexa Gilbert was studying abroad in Italy and wanted to surprise her siblings for the holiday.
But they would never make it.
A chain-reaction crash left both family members severely injured.
"We are so lucky they are both alive because the back seat was in the front," said Eliza.
Alexa Gilbert had a punctured heart, a collapsed lung, broke both collar bones, and nine ribs. She underwent emergency heart surgery.
Three weeks later and just in time for Christmas, Alexa Gilbert was released from the hospital. Her teenage siblings, Eliza and Aden, said it was an early Christmas gift.
"I think we are so grateful that the three of us are all together," said Eliza.
Their dad, a single father after the daughters' mother died when they were infants, has not yet been released from the Long Beach hospital. It will likely be months before he is ready to come home.
I never could imagine being without him. My dad is like my best friend," Eliza Gilbert said. "I knew instantly I was going to be the one to step up and take care of the household."
"I googled how to pay bills. What am I supposed to do about medical bills and the insurance claim that was mailed to us? I am just 18 and I am just like, OK this is what I have to do."
She is even taking care of Alexa Gilbert as she recovers.
"She has done everything for me, even helping me bath," said Alexa. "I am just so grateful for her, and for my brother's help too."
Luckily, the Gilberts have had the support of community members in Sabre Springs. A friend started a meal train where each day a different person -- including some the Gilberts have never met -- drops off a meal for the family.
"I think it’s really beautiful to see so many people come together when like, we don’t know what we did to deserve so much love and support," Eliza Gilbert said.
A cousin gifted the family a Christmas tree, which they all decorated it together the night Alexa Gilbert came home.
"After (decorating the tree) the three of us sat on this floor, just sobbing because we didn’t think we were going to have a Christmas this year," Eliza Gilbert said.
"To have that much love and support was so unexpected and we were just like we made it through it she is alive, dad’s alive although they are still healing we are going to get through it."