EL PASO, Texas - Neonatologist Dr. Luis Ayo, credited with saving the lives of thousands of infants born prematurely, died Thursday morning after battling a heart condition for many years.
Ayo was 69.
"He left such a footprint," former NICU nurse and co-worker Irene Perreault said. "He is going to be missed by so many because he left such a legacy."
Ayo and fellow neonatologist, Dr. Roy Caviglia, founded a practice in the 1970s in West El Paso, before selling the practice to a national chain, Pediatrix. Ayo, however, continued to manage the practice as the medical director at Providence Children's Hospital until his death.
"He just never wavered," Perreault said, "He was one of those that if you ever ended up in one of those situations, you wanted to make sure he was the one would take care of your baby."
Ayo spent 38 years at Providence caring for thousands of its smallest patients. Under the guidance of Ayo, the NICU at Providence Children's Hospital grew to be the largest and most accredited NICU in the region.
Perreault said Ayo took his work personally. She said he would go above and beyond the call of a normal neonatologist.
Ayo would not only take care of the baby, but cared for the families as well. In one instance, Perreault said Ayo paid for a family to fly home when they could not not afford the airfare.
The former co-worker also said Ayo would give out his personal number to be contacted at any hour of the night. "He cared deeply about the patients he took care of," Perreault said. "He would spend hours at the bedside watching these children as they struggled to hold onto life."
Ayo worked at Providence, Las Palmas, Sierra and in Las Cruces.
Perreault said Ayo worked up until the day of his death. "We all believe that he continued because he felt like he wasn't done, that he still had another baby to take care of."
Ayo was working Monday, before being admitted into the intensive care unit Tuesday and succumbing to his medical issues Thursday.
Although Perreault says there are talented doctors in the Borderland, she said the loss of Ayo will leave a void in the medical community.
"It is going to be hard to move on," Perreault said. "It's a huge loss for anyone who knew him and for those who did not get a chance to know him."