Sioux Falls, SD
6-year-old Sara Skyberg pays a visit to Sanford Children's Hospital once a month for blood test to make sure everything is okay. Because of her frequent visits she has developed a strong relationship with the staff that works there.
As a Child Life Specialist, Kayla Van Wyk makes sure Sara is comfortable at the Castle. Before a procedure, the two will spend time seeing how the medical equipment works on a stuffed animal. Van Wyk says Skyberg has come a long way since she first started working with her.
Sara Skyberg is your typical six-year-old. She's full of energy, and loves arts and crafts.
"They have colors and paper here and glitter here and everything. It's fun and I love drawing here," Skyberg said.
With her sweet demeanor, you'd never know just how much she's been through.
"Her first three years were in third-world country where she was abandoned. We adopted her and she spent most of her life in an orphanage and we brought her here when she was three," Sara's father, Ray Skyberg, said.
When they adopted her, Sara's parents knew she was ill, but they didn't know how serious it was.
"She was sick so she came to the castle and we found out she had leukemia. So for the last two and a half years she's been in treatment," Ray Skyberg said.
Early on in her treatment, Sara spent nearly three months in the hospital. And a few years later, she's still undergoing tests.
"She comes in once a month to do a blood test to make sure everything is fine. She will be checked for probably most of her life to make sure it doesn't reoccur," Ray Skyberg said.
Over the years, Kayla Van Wyk has gotten to know her well.
"Sara and I have a special bond," Van Wky said. "When I was first started here at Sanford, she had just been newly diagnosed with cancer."
As a child life specialist, Van Wyk makes sure Sara is comfortable at the castle. Sometimes that means distracting her from the pain of getting her finger poked. Other times, it means just being a friend.
"She's my friend and she's really nice and I see her here every day," Sara Skyberg said. "She's good and she's really lovely."
"Being able to spend time with her and being able to build a rapport with her was something that was really important or one of our goals as child life specialist," Van Wky said.
Van Wky says children often learn the best through playing, so before a procedure they spend time seeing how the medical equipment works on a stuffed animal.
"So Sara can see the stuff that we are using and the different medical equipment allows that her to be more comfortable and allows her to see what the steps are for the procedure," Van Wky said.
For now, Sara's uphill battle with the disease is starting to ease and her future is looking bright.
"She's going to live a normal healthy life and she said in kindergarten graduation that she wants to be a doctor a cancer doctor when she gets big so Doctor Wagner has had a big influence on her here," Ray Skyberg said.
A brave little girl who has been through a lot.
“She's come a long way and she's a fighter," Ray Skyberg said.