Many people in Edmonds probably know Starla Sage, local food bank volunteer and master gardener, and her husband Doug, principal with Edmonds construction management firm Gram Sage Graves, Inc.
Six years ago, Starla – a retired employee trainer for a local bank — was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, or a scarring of the lungs, and according to her husband was on “a long, slow slide downward with lung health.” As the disease progressed, she became increasingly short of breath and has been dependent on various levels of oxygen for several years.
The good news was that Starla – who exercised, ate a healthy diet and never smoked — was healthy before she was diagnosed. That meant she was a good candidate for a double-lung transplant, and she was placed on the waiting list at the University of Washington Medical Center. According to Doug, the normal wait time for such a transplant is six to nine months but Starla’s wait was longer, in large part because her petite body size eliminated many potential matches.
On Feb. 11, after a year and a half of waiting, Starla and Doug got the news that suitable lungs were waiting for her. On Feb. 12, following several hours of transplant surgery, Starla had a new pair of lungs and three days later, “she was up and walking,” Doug said.
“It was amazing to see her take her first breath with new lungs,” her husband of 38 years said. “It was like watching a newborn baby take its first breath. And seeing her walk without oxygen was an amazing milestone.”
For now, Starla is recovering “on schedule” and should be going home soon. It will take between three months to a year to return to a normal life, Doug said. She is currently taking 18 different types of pills each day, including medication to prevent her body from rejecting the new lungs and to prevent infection, plus vitamins. She will continue to take between eight and 10 different types of medications for the rest of her life, Doug noted.
The couple is fortunate to have tremendous support from friends and family, including their 27-year-old son Cameron, who “has been a great cook and is keeping us all fed,” Doug said, adding that he also appreciates the understanding shown by his business partners and clients as he tended to Starla’s needs.