A 4-year-old boy smiled ear to ear, and his mother cried as her dream came true. Austin, a tube-fed child, shared cookies and milk with Santa after years of not eating anything by mouth. The photo celebrated years of work by both Austin and his mother, Beth Salzbrenner, to reach the milestone. After she posted the photo on Facebook, the photo spread virally. We spoke with Beth and got all the details behind the adorable shot.
Beth told me that Austin’s journey in life has not been easy. For most of Austin’s life, he struggled to eat and tolerate food. Two years ago, doctors told Beth that Austin could no longer eat orally. Due to aspiration and choking concerns, doctors said eating orally was too dangerous for Austin.
For two years, Austin was 100% tube fed through a g/j tube. However, through work with doctors and therapists, Austin recently started trying foods by mouth. When Austin began to eat by mouth, Beth wanted to celebrate the milestone by taking Austin to see Santa.
Beth wanted Austin to be able to enjoy cookies and milk with Santa. However, she said she had trouble finding a Santa that was comfortable pouring milk into Austin’s tube. Another aspect complicating matters was Austin was scared by several of the Santas due to his sensory issues.
After trying several Santas, Beth finally found one that would give Austin his milk in the tube and one that Austin liked. Beth located the Santa at Glenn Brook Square Mall in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
During the photo, Santa Bob poured milk into Austin’s tube. Beth said Austin gleefully said, “you see him give me my milkies mommy!” Tickled by the encounter with Santa, Austin grinned from ear to ear.
Even though Santa Bob was a little nervous giving Austin the milk, Beth said he did a fantastic job. Austin was so thrilled by the experience the photographer snapped an adorable photo.
Following the photo shoot with Santa, Beth took to Facebook to share the momentous occasion with family and friends. Beth said her wishes of Austin being able to eat again came true, and the photo celebrated his long journey back to food.
Quickly after posting the photo, the photo was shared by thousands of people on Facebook. The picture of Santa pouring milk into Austin’s feeding tube has more than 57,000 shares. Local media outlets interviewed Beth and Austin.
Today Austin’s story is a national story. However, Beth said she is just really grateful for the Santa taking time to help her son feel special. Santa Bob helped Austin and Beth celebrate a hard-fought milestone in his life by allowing him to take part in Milk and Cookies with Santa.
Beth said the memory is one she will never forget and will always cherish. The experience was a dream come true.
Check out the photo below and tell us your thoughts
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