Local Infant Battles Childhood Cancer


In July, Charlie and Emily Kemper noticed that their baby son, Sage, had rapid movement in his eye. As a precaution, his parents took Sage to their pediatrician, Dr. Winston, who ran tests on the eye and found it working normally. It was suggested that further tests be run at A.I. duPont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington. It was there that the family learned that Sage had metastatic hypothalamic-optic chiasmatic glioma, a type of childhood cancer.

“They performed an MRI and found that the tumor was in a highly sensitive area near the optic nerve,” Charles Gray, Sage’s uncle, said. “They performed a biopsy and released Sage from the hospital, telling the family that they would know more in a few days. They brought him home, but something was wrong with his breathing. In fact, his heart stopped beating and they had to revive him several times. They rushed him back to A.I. duPont.”

For more than a month, Sage remained in the hospital, coding several times and needing to be revived. The doctors now think that the tumor is in a sensitive part of his brain and that it could be affecting his heart rate as well as his breathing. In an effort to shrink the tumor, the doctors had planned to start chemotherapy on September 7. However, his blood count was too low so they had to delay the start of treatment.

“After his treatment, he must be in the hospital for two days in case there are complications,” Mr. Gray said. “A week later, they have to do it again and this will continue for at least another year. His mother, Emily has quit working so she can be with her son. This means they are down to one income plus the extra transportation costs of traveling back and forth to A.I. for his treatment.”

On the day that Sage was supposed to start chemotherapy, doctors discovered his blood count was still too low. He had been placed on different seizure medication but the old medication remained in his system for two weeks. The doctors want to be sure he will not have any seizures on the new medication once the old medication is out of his system, so he was kept for a few days for observation. He was discharged on September 9.

On Wednesday, September 13, the family learned that Sage was losing eyesight in both eyes and that he was reacting only to sounds. Doctors told them that this may be the result of the tumor pressing on optic nerves and that chemo may restore his sight. The next day, Mr. Kemper and Sage traveled to A.I. duPont for his first chemo treatment. He remained in the hospital until Monday, September 18 and will return on Thursday for chemo. He then will travel to Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia for further evaluation.

The Kemper’s say they are very grateful for the A.I. duPont Foundation as their insurance would not cover the entire cost of Sage’s treatments. In an effort to help, family members have set up a GoFundMe for Sage in an effort to raise money for his care. There is a $30,000 goal to help offset the loss of his mother’s income and the cost of traveling to Wilmington for his treatment.

On September 23, a Quarter Auction will be held at the Milford Boys & Girls Club with doors opening at 5 PM and games beginning at 6 PM. Tickets are $7 in advance and $10 at the door. Tickets include one paddle and additional paddles will be available at the door. For information on how to donate or to purchase tickets, individuals can call Tiffany Gravenor at 302-858-7022 or Jennifer Cooper at 443-783-4197.

“If you saw this boy, you would never know how sick he was,” Mr. Gray said. “He is always smiling, always laughing. He just seems so happy. He needs everyone’s thoughts and prayers as his prognosis is cautious. Anyone who has kids knows how awful it is when your child is sick and you would do anything to make them better. We are hoping the community comes together to pull Sage through this.”