Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sage--the Rest of the Story

Dara, Emily and I met Sage Volkman at a fireside in Albuquerque (about 1995?). When this week's news included a story about a woman who has had a face transplant, I thought about Sage and wondered where she was and what she was doing. The internet had a few clues.

Sage Volkman’s story has been featured twice in Ensign and New Era stories (see “Sage’s Song”—Ensign Aug 1989 and “Sage’s Story”—New Era Feb 2000). At the age of 5, two weeks after her parents and older brother had joined the Church, Sage was on a fishing trip with her dad and brother, Avery. At one point, while her father and brother were a short distance away fishing, Avery heard a dog bark and saw that their camper was on fire. Brother Volkman rushed back to rescue the sleeping Sage but was unable to do so before she had already received 3rd and 4th degree burns over 70% of her body. Her nose and one ear were melted off. Doctors had to amputate her fingers because they were so badly burned. She was in a coma. One lung had collapsed. But, to the surprise of all the medical staff, Sage survived the night.

A few days later, Sage was moved to the burn unit of a New Mexico hospital. Again, there was little hope she’d make it through the night—only a 10 percent chance—but she survived and improved over the next two days. Then pneumonia struck. Sage’s condition deteriorated, and two weeks later she was flown to a burn institute in Texas, still in a coma. The doctors there said her survival through the night was a “big if.” They also said if she survived she would have vision loss, hearing loss, brain damage, chronic lung problems, and she would be unable to walk. Anything short of that would be a miracle.

Sage pulled through again with the help of numerous priesthood blessings. She also had the aid of loving parents and skilled doctors. One priesthood blessing she received promised full recovery and that she would be safe with her Savior until she was better. After a six-week coma, the blessing was fulfilled, and Sage was finally well enough to go home on December 23, 1986, after three months in hospitals.

One of the first blessings was given by Robert DeBuck. “When Robert blessed her,” his wife, Ruth, recalls, “he told her to go where it was safe—into Heavenly Father’s arms. We lived for a long time on faith in that blessing. We believe that’s where she was.”

Months later, Sage gave evidence of the efficacy of that faith. One day Denise asked her if she remembered anything at all during those first six weeks. Sage said she remembered being with Jesus.
A little skeptical, her mother asked, “What did he say?”
“He just held me and told me he was sorry that I was hurt. He told me he loved me,” Sage replied. “What did you say?”
“I told him I loved him, too. I said I wanted to stay, but he told me I had things to do. Then he was gone.”

Sage grew up in Albuquerque, attended Sandia Prep, then went to Ricks College. She earned her PhD. in psychology from the University of Utah. She is now a counselor for burn victims.

A living miracle, Sage writes, “I am happy and people wonder how I can be with all that I have gone through. I tell them you have two ways to see the world, as a good place with wonderful people to love and be loved by or you can see everything as a problem and feel anger always in your heart. I choose to be happy.”


Jen said...

When I was working for Randy Joyce, People Magazine ran an article on March 21, 1988 about Sage Volkman. I was so touched by the story, I cut it out and saved it. They ran a sequel about her a few months later, when a bunch of school aged kids sent her letters of encouragement. I cut that article out, too. I still have them. Her life story puts my trials into perspective. Hurray for Sage Vokman! I wish I could meet her!

Katscratchme said...

I remember meeting Sage at that fireside. I don't remember much about her except that she was so very positive. I don't know if I have it in me to be that positive under such adversity.
Ben grew up with Sage. I told him that he needs to read this.

Rebecca said...

It's amazing what just a little faith can do. I also believe that experiences with our savior sustain us and if we continue to rely on him this life's journey is much easier.

Anonymous said...

I remember! She is truly an inspiring person.

Ok Steve!! said...

Finally got to reading this one...

As Em mentioned, I spent my teenage years around Sage. We were in different wards, but in the same building. She always had the best outlook on life and her situation. Not once did I ever see her feeling sorry for herself, even when she noticed someone staring at her from across the room or at church dances. She always kept her head held high.

I had the privilege of associating with her for a good few years and can credit her for helping to shape my view of people who have been labeled as different or who've had physical or mental challenges in life.

Trent said...

sage spoke to us this last friday at youth conference and she was truely inspirational!! i will never forget of her teachings:) she is soooo incredible and such an amazing example! thanks for your testimony of the Savior because it as truely touched me and manyyy others:) i love you

Chocolate Inspector said...

Our stake in Hawaii were blessed to hear Sage speak as she was staying with friends for Christmas. What an inspiration to anyone who gets to hear her talk. Her testimony of the Savior is beyond my capability to describe, but I am forever changed. The Savior lives, and knows each of us. Her message is of overcoming trials, regardless of how big or small they are. Enduring well. That the scriptures are true, and we can pray to our Father in Heaven whenever we want to or need to. What a blessing she is to others! Love you Sister Volkman!