- August 4, 2016
WINDERMERE Two-year-old Ashton Allen giggles loudly as his father Matthew Allen spins him around and around in a dark swivel chair at The Allen Real Estate Team office in downtown Windermere.
He’s a boy who loves giving kisses and eating ice cream at Allen’s Creamery & CoffeeHouse, where his father is co-owner.
“Ashton is extremely social,” said his mother, Amy Allen. “He loves being around people; he loves interacting. He is the center of our family. … He’s such a loving boy but loves entertaining. He loves to be the center of attention.”
When you look at Ashton, you might not realize that when was born on Oct. 30, 2013, he was the smallest surviving baby ever at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies. He had a 17% chance of being alive.
And Ashton is still too young to know that he has a twin brother, Brandon, who died before they could meet outside the womb.
Before Ashton and Brandon were born, the Allens had five miscarriages.
“It was completely heartbreaking, but we did not want to give up,” Amy said.
They didn’t. In 2013, Amy became pregnant with Ashton and Brandon. But the boys came early.
Brandon was born five days before Ashton and was too young for survival. Doctors put Brandon’s placenta back inside of Amy.
“The rest was up to God, Ashton, my body,” she said. “There was no extra medicine put into place. I was in labor for five days with Ashton. Every day counted.”
It was Oct. 30, 2013 — Amy’s 43rd birthday. Two years prior, she had a miscarriage on the same day.
Ashton was born at 23 weeks, and he weighed 1 pound, 2 ounces.
He was immediately intubated and spent 126 days in the NICU. For seven weeks, his breathing was aided by a breathing tube, but he never had an infection, nor did he ever need to have a surgery. He never had a brain bleed, which doctors considered miraculous.
He learned to eat on the outside of the womb. Doctors called him a “rock star.”
“He’s doing wonderfully,” Matthew said. “He’s a happy, healthy boy, and we owe a lot to Winnie Palmer Hospital, especially the Alexander neonatal intensive care unit.”
The family calls his nurses and therapists “Ashton’s Angels,” and credits his doctor, Gregor Alexander, for much of his success.
“We have devoted the rest of our lives giving back to the NICU,” Amy said. “They were the ones that ultimately helped complete our family.”
For Mother’s Day, Matthew surprised Amy with a butterfly garden in their backyard. They called it “Brandon’s Butterfly Garden.”
The garden is full of caterpillars and butterflies, and the family looks at it as a celebration of Brandon.
“Brandon’s life probably saved both of ours on some level,” Amy said. “I just believe that somewhere along the line, with him coming early the way that he did, he just allowed Ashton’s sack to stay put.”
Ashton’s full name is Ashton Brandon Allen.
A video of Ashton’s 126 days in the NICU details every step along the way. At the end of the video, the Allen family drives away from the hospital, baby Ashton in tow. As the camera pans back to the hospital, a shot of light shines at the top of the hospital’s windows.
After watching the video, the family realized just who that light was.
Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected]
The Winnie Palmer Hospital Mobile NICU units move premature and critically ill babies from hospitals across 21 counties to Winnie Palmer Hospital’s Alexander Center for Neonatology. Each unit has a heart-lung bypass machine and three incubators. The hospital currently has two units.
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27
WHERE: Allen’s Creamery & CoffeeHouse, 523 Main St., Windermere
DETAILS: Come together with the community to support a fundraising event for Winnie Palmer Hospital fow Women and Babies. Tour the NICU transport truck and meet members of the NICU team, some of whom cared for Ashton. The Windermere Police Department will also give tours of patrol cars, and Panache Events will do face painting. Participate in a raffle, enjoy some food, and of course, ice cream will be available for purchase.