- May 23, 2017
Amy Allen was only 23 weeks pregnant with twins when she wasn’t feeling right and went to the hospital nine years ago. She ended up delivering the first baby, Brandon, who lived about an hour. Five days later, Ashton arrived, and he survived — despite coming 17 weeks early and entering the world weighing 1 pound.
Matt and Amy Allen say they owe it all to an angel at Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies they call Dr. Gregor Alexander.
“What’s great about him is anytime there was concern, he would come in and talk to us — and he had such a calming demeanor that he was able to give us hope and get us to the next step,” Matt Allen said.
Ashton, who will turn 10 in October, left the NICU after 126 days.
“He remembers just about every baby he’s ever treated,” Mark Allen said. “He means an absolute ton to us. He’s an angel in our eyes, and he gave us a chance to be parents when the percentage was about 35% survival rate. He gave us our son.”
“I got connected to the Allens through the birth of Ashton,” Alexander said. “That was the last chance for the Allens to have a baby. I was really blessed to be there for Ashton.”
When Matt and Amy Allen learned the physician had written a book, they wanted to help promote it. They and two other family members own Allen’s Creamery and Coffee House, in Windermere, where the book signing will take place.
“Such a huge part of his life gave us the ability to be families,” Amy Allen said. “Mother’s Day is the perfect weekend because he gave us a chance to become mothers and gave our children life.”
FOR THE LOVE OF BABIES
After Alexander left Winnie Palmer Hospital three years ago, many people told him he had an interesting life and should write a book. He hired a ghost writer, and the two set out on a two-and-one-half-year writing journey.
The book, “The Baby Doctor: My Journey for the Love of Babies,” was published earlier this year, and Alexander is pleased with the result — both from a personal and an inspirational aspect.
“There are a lot of miracles in my book that I couldn’t explain from a science point of view,” he said. “I just want to inspire the people that have dreams. With a lot of passion and dreams you will be able to succeed. I also want to inspire people who are considering becoming a doctor. … We have to go into medicine with a lot of love and compassion for the patients. (We have) to care for the patients like they are part of our family.”
The doctor said he also wrote the book from a historical point of view and to recognize the construction of the first children’s hospital in Orlando and the first neonatal intensive care unit in Orlando.
“It was history in the making,” he said. “Part of the reason why we were so successful was because people like Arnold Palmer walked into our facility and I was able to present to him the dream of having a children’s hospital — and he supported that dream. He said, ‘We can do better.’ Just giving us the opportunity to use his name opened many doors for funding.”
Alexander served as chairman of the hospital foundation for many years and helped ensure top-notch equipment and training.
“People will recognize that we went from almost nothing to today providing excellent care for babies and children,” he said.
“MY DRIVE AND PASSION FOR BABIES WAS CONFIRMED”
“Babies have always been the fountain of life for me,” Alexander said. “I decided to be a doctor when I was 7 years old.”
Alexander was born in 1947 in Colombia, South America. His parents were Jews who escaped Germany in 1938. His grandparents, who were Russian Jews, were unable to escape and died in the gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
His father left the family when Alexander was 5; he and his sister were raised by their mother in poor conditions, he said.
“In spite of that, we were able to fulfill my dream of becoming a doctor,” he said.
Alexander began medical school when he was 16. At 22, he was a doctor and worked in the Colombian countryside for one year, traveling by horse to visit patients and deliver babies.
“My dream was to become a baby doctor and be able to provide care to premature and sick babies,” he said. “I was only going to fulfill my dream coming to this country.
“When I came to United States in 1972, the modern era of newborn medicine was just being developed. They had developed a breathing machine for babies with underdeveloped lungs – it allowed us to save more babies.”
Alexander trained at the University of Miami’s neonatology unit and moved to Orlando in the late 1970s.
“My drive and passion for babies was confirmed,” Alexander said.
“At that point there were only a handful of babies in the unit here in Orlando, and I was able to be part of the group that dream and made possible the construction of the children’s hospital —Arnold Palmer and, subsequently, Winnie Palmer.”
Under his guidance, the neonatal unit grew from about eight beds in the late 1970s to 142.
“That is considered the largest neonatal unit under one roof in the country and maybe even the world,” he said. “Not only were we able to grow, but we were able to grow high-tech and knowledge and also, with tremendous love and compassion, we were able to get greater statistics of survival in premature and sick babies. We are in the top 10 percent of survival in the United States at Winnie Palmer.”
Alexander left the hospital at the age of 72.
“For 42 years, seven months and nine days, I was able to care for 45,000 babies,” he said. “And that was part of an amazing team. There is no way to emphasize the saving is part of the team. I was just part of that. I was, at one point, the captain of the team.”
His departure from the hospital allowed him to concentrate his efforts on writing his book and taking part in mission trips.
Alexander is taking his expertise in neonatology in a different direction but still continues to advocate for healthcare for premature babies.
He is involved in medical missions through a humanitarian foundation called Mission of Hope, which is dedicated to improving the healthcare in Haiti and Dominican Republic.
He also has joined another foundation called Humanitarian Volunteer Organization that sends volunteers out worldwide. He has applied to go to St. Lucia, where he would work in the neonatal center of one of the hospitals. His goal is to improve the survival rate of premature babies in other parts of the world.
Despite his worldwide efforts, Alexander keeps in touch with his Central Florida families, mainly through a Facebook page called Dr. Alexander Children and Families. He has a few thousand followers, who update him with photos and birthday announcements. Many of the babies he saved are now adults.
“I worked so long that many of my former babies came to work with me,” he said. “I had at least half a dozen of my former babies come to work for me in nursing and delivering babies of similar size that they were. And I went to the delivery of some of my patients’ babies.
“We were starting to take care of second generation, and some of those babies needed intensive care,” Alexander said. “Some of my babies became doctors, and many of them have done quite well. Around 95% of my babies are functioning at the normal level, so they’re making an impact in society.
“That’s the reason I call myself an emotional millionaire,” Alexander said. “God gave me the mission, and He allowed me to deliver that 100%, so I’m very grateful for that.”