More than a year after losing his ability to walk, it was a heart-warming moment on Saturday as a Cambridge teenager took to the stage at an Auckland concert.
In November last year, Sage Vaughters was operated on at Starship hospital for scoliosis, a severe curvature of the spine.
- Starship Hospital no longer fit for purpose, new DHB report reveals
- Five-week-old baby hospitalised with 'non-accidental' injuries
- Family of Auckland girl battling mystery condition fighting to get her home
But the surgery didn't go to plan, and while the hospital warned Sage's parents of the risks, his mother still remembers the day she was told two nerve pathways had been snipped and his spinal cord collapsed.
"I remember seeing the surgeon at the elevator. He met my eyes and it was at that moment I thought okay what's going on, and he said there's been a complication," Sage's mother, Kat, told Newshub.
"I remember seeing Sage in the intensive care and they told me no movement, no feeling waist down, and as a mum I had to take myself away to have a moment."
Starship called on experts from the United States for clinical advice, and within 24 hours Sage was back under the knife.
For five long months he lived at the hospital, unable to walk, living and breathing rehab. He hasn't been able to attend St Peter's high school full time since the operation.
Starship's Surgical Director John Beca said he has great sympathy for Sage and his family, but the utmost confidence in his clinical team.
"We are very proud of our Starship team and the work they do to care for our patients and whānau."
While there are often complications, particularly with complex spinal surgery, he said it is "not always the result of error".
The Health and Disability Commissioner is investigating a complaint about the hospital's handling of the operation.
But Sage, who turned 15 last Friday, isn't bitter, saying he accepts everyone is human.
"Someone has gotta be the one. It sucks that it happened to me, but it did and you can't go back," he said.
A trip to Philadelphia and Baltimore has helped train Sage's brain to remember his gait patterns, and now a year on, he's down to one crutch.
"It's definitely given me a better perspective. I met a lot of kids going through a lot harder stuff. It made me realise this isn't so bad, if they can do this really crappy stuff then I can do this," said Sage.
A trip up the Skytower with his mum and twin brother Zion only cemented just how far he has come.
And it was another milestone on Saturday, as the boy who wants to be a drummer, but can no longer use his feet, took to the stage at an Auckland concert with his brother Zion. It was also their own lyrics they were playing, their story.
"For Sage to walk across the room takes all of his strength and every time a physical therapist says 'you want to keep going?', 'yep', 'you want to do more', 'yep I'm ready'," said Kat.
"What I saw in his eyes in those early days of having to find the place within himself to keep going, to keep moving, to keep believing to holding that faith in his recovery, I have just been blown away I am so proud, and I've learned from him."