After daughter’s rare diagnosis and house fire, Delta couple grateful for community support

Estimated reading time: 3-4 minutes

DELTA — A Delta couple says thank you to their community after suffering blow after blow against their family over the holidays. First came a devastating medical diagnosis, then the loss of everything she owned. But now, random strangers have given them a reason to be thankful.

The 10-month-old Sage heard fun noises from her singing musical toy and squeaked as she sat on mother Linnsie Gage’s lap as she pushed buttons on Wednesday. Dad Joshua Travis sat next to them and watched his daughter play in the living room.

While Sage was preoccupied with the sounds of her toy, Mom and Dad could hear something else: their breathing.

Each inhale sounded like a squeaky fight.

“If she spins around for 10 seconds, the lips will turn blue,” Linnsie explained.

Shortly after Sage was born, they noticed the loud breathing, and doctors initially told them she would outgrow it. But as the months progressed, the struggle to breathe continued.

Linnsie and Josh noted that Sage wasn’t growing very quickly, remaining in the fourth or fifth percentile for her age. She’s not crawling yet, and if Sage starts playing too hard, she’ll get gasped and go limp. Sage has difficulty swallowing and often aspirates food and liquid.

Several doctor’s visits took her from her small Delta community to Salt Lake City, two hours away.

In early December, they finally received a diagnosis at Primary Children’s Hospital: bilateral vocal cord paralysis (BVCP), laryngomalacia, inspiratory stridor, obstructive sleep apnea, and a tongue tie.

“Breathing is like breathing through a coffee straw,” Josh explained. The more energy she expends, the lower Sage’s oxygen levels drop.

According to Linnsie, fewer than 140 babies are born with BVCP worldwide, and in fact, more babies are born who need open-heart surgery each year.

Finding specialized medical care for BVCP is difficult, and Sage may also need a tracheostomy. Which will mean a lot of medical bills for Linnsie and Josh. After a sleep study and an MRI, the doctors put Sage on oxygen for the time being.

That was the first hardship.

Then, the day after Christmas, they both received a phone call while they weren’t home.

“He says, ‘Your house is on fire,'” Josh said. “It was just, it’s a difficult concept to grasp. You understand when someone else’s house is on fire, but when it’s your own house you’re like, ‘What do you mean, my house is on fire? I was just there, It was nice.'”

When Josh and Linnsie ran back to Delta, they found that there wasn’t much left of the house they had owned for the past three years. Three vehicles burned next to their home. The couple say a chimney failure started the fire.

You have lost everything.

“It was heartbreaking,” Linnsie said.

The couple have home insurance but said it was a slow process with lots of paperwork and not much support so far.

Others heard what had happened, and the Delta community quickly came together to help them get back on their feet. People stopped at where the family was temporarily staying and at other family members with supplies and donations.

“People brought us everything from baby food to diapers and wipes to clothes for all three of us,” Linnsie said, looking at boxes and boxes full of clothes, toiletries, blankets and medicines in her new living room.

A school friend of Josh’s was able to help them find a new place to live.

“The fire department was great. They had put together a care package,” Josh said. He said the care package included sweatpants, long-sleeved shirts, shoes and cash.

They don’t know what’s next, but as the couple rebuilds and Sage gets the care she needs, they hope the community can now hear how grateful they are for all the support.

“The community just pulls together,” Josh said, getting emotional. “It was just so amazing and heartwarming.”

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Lauren Steinbrecher

Lauren Steinbrecher is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and multimedia journalist who joined KSL in December 2021.

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