KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Alexander Blanchard likes to fist bump.
“Knuckles! Thank you,” said Dr. Adriane Latz as she greeted Alexander, who’s called Zander.
Dr. Latz knows the three-year-old is one “tough guy” as it says on his t-shirt. Zander has had hundreds of appointments at Children’s Mercy Hospital, eight surgeries and dozens of nights in the hospital.
She also knows Zander wouldn’t have been alive for any of it without love.
“His parents are amazing. Just brought him in as one of their own and have loved on him,” said Dr. Latz.
A relative appeared at the Blanchards’ doorstep in St. Joseph and left Zander when he was five weeks old.
“Just basically ‘I know that you’ll take care of him and here he is,'” said Patti Blanchard, recalling what the relative said.
Zander was neglected and malnourished, weighing just four pounds.
“He did not cry. He did not tell you he was hungry. He was very lethargic. He just laid,” said Blanchard.
Weeks later, she and her husband, Mike, learned Zander has Down Syndrome.
“That was pretty much the least of my concerns,” she said.
She says health issues that came with Down Syndrome were more concerning. Zander had severe breathing and feeding issues resulting from malformation of his airway. He was choking on his voicebox.
“Dr. Latz saved his life,” said Blanchard.
She says the doctor saved his life with surgery and with her coordination of his care with other specialists at Children’s Mercy.
Zander is learning to talk now.
“Out. Out. Good talking. There you go,” said his speech therapist, Linda Ernst, as they read a book.
Blanchard says she has sometimes put 600 miles on her car a week going between St. Joseph and Children’s Mercy. When people ask her how she does it, and how she took in a baby with many challenges, she tells them they can do it, too.
“You can change their life. There’s thousands of kids just like him. All you have to do is open your heart, open your house,” she said.
Blanchard calls Zander “Alexander the Great,” the great gift left at her door.