“Rock Star” Sage DeBoer celebrated her fifth birthday on July 22. Her bright eyes and pretty smile light up a room, reminding those around her of her miracle story.
The nickname “Rock Star” was given to her in the neonatal intensive care unit at Sanford Hospital in Sioux Falls where she spent the first 120 days of her life.
She weighed only 1 pound, 8 ounces at birth and was 12 3/4 inches long.
When she was discharged from the hospital on Nov. 19, 2009, she weighed 7 pounds, 11 ounces and was 19 1/2 inches long.
Her mother, Jody, went into pre-term labor in late July when she was only 22 weeks pregnant.
After five days of hospital rest, she and her husband, Bud, were informed by doctors that the baby needed to be delivered.
Bud and Jody didn’t get to hold their baby until she was three weeks old. When she was born, they were given the grim odds that premature babies born at this stage have less than a 50-percent survival rate.
Little Sage had heart surgery within the first week and problems with feeding and breathing. Also prior to leaving the hospital she had another surgery to insert a G-tube into her stomach.
When Sage came home, her visits with specialists became a regular part of her routine. She visited the feeding clinic for four months at the Sanford Children’s Specialty Clinic in Sioux Falls.
Because she was on the ventilator during her NICU stay, she had some anti-oral issues and eating could have been a challenge.
“We were taught how to cue Sage when trying new foods,” Jodi said. “They offered her a variety of tastes and textures at each visit.”
Now, at the age of 5, Sage has no difficulty in eating. Occasionally she will ask, “How come I don’t have a feeding tube anymore?” and will point to where it was on her stomach.
Jodi said, ”She’s very petite for her age with weight, but has always been on track for her height.”
The road to recovery hasn’t been easy, however.
Sage received injections until she was almost 2 years old to prevent RSV, and she was hospitalized twice for respiratory issues.
“She will always have chronic lung disease and be susceptible to respiratory illnesses,” Jody said. “We have been teaching her to avoid certain air irritants like smoke so she begins to understand.”
During her first three years, Sage met regularly with an occupational therapist, and Jody said, “They gave tips and suggested toys to help develop her fine motor skills.”
Last year she attended Little Pates Academy and will attend again this year. When asked what her favorite part of school was, she said, “Milk break and recess.“
When asked what her favorite book was, she said, “The Bible,” and her favorite story is David and Goliath.
For Sage’s fifth birthday last week, Sage received a PlasmaCar and roses from her dad.
Bud said he gives her roses each year for her birthday, one for each year. “I started this because I wanted to be the first guy to give her roses.”
Every year around her birthday the DeBoer family bring treats to the staff at the NICU where Sage is still remembered as the “Rock Star” baby.
Another miracle in the DeBoer home is her little sister, Londyn, who was born last fall five weeks early and weighed 5 pounds and 13 ounces and had no complications.