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  • Writer's picturePamela Weintraub


Updated: Jul 9, 2018

Austin Savage was born the youngest of four in Sierra Vista, Arizona, in 2002. He fell ill with pneumonia at one week of age, and landed in a hospital incubator. After he came home, he cried inconsolably, threw up his food, and barely gained weight. "I'd raised three other healthy children," says Kelly Savage, his mother. "I knew something was wrong."

While her husband, Buddy, stayed back in Sierra Vista, Kelly and the kids left for Tucson, where a top-notch medical center could drill down. Soon they found the problem: a case of acid reflux so severe that doctors said Austin must be feeling pain equivalent to a heart attack. So began a marathon of surgery, feeding tubes and special formulas. "It was scary," Savage says.

Then Buddy got a job near a major hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, enabling the family to be together, at last. Little Austin arrived with a mountain of medical records. By then 9 months of age, "he had constant, watery diarrhea and weighed as much as a 3-month-old. You could see every bone in his body," Kelly Savage recalls.

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