Almost fifty-five years ago, Dr. Jorge Vallejo told his colleagues at a Havana hospital that he needed to rush home to check on one of his toddler sons who had a fever. That was a lie.
He actually went home to pack some clothes before he, his wife and two boys boarded a torpedo boat named “La Gaviota.” Before the sun rose the next day, the Vallejos and other Cuban refugees sailed across the Florida Straits, braving a storm that left them stranded at sea.
The U.S. Coast Guard rescued them and towed the boat into Key West, where Vallejo began a new chapter in the U.S., eventually establishing himself as a prominent OB-GYN in a community of exiles and the patriarch of a family of Cuban American doctors.
“He took a big chance,” said his oldest son, Dr. Jorge Vallejo Jr., who grew up hearing stories of the treacherous journey where waves rose as high as 12 feet (4 meters). “He came over with $100 in his pocket.”
Jorge Jr. became a geriatric psychiatrist, and the younger boy on that voyage, Carlos, grew up to become a doctor of internal medicine. A third son Freddy, born in Miami, is