Three decades apart, Lissa McGowan, a NICU nurse at the Children's Hospital at Saint Peter's University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J., poses with then-infant David Caldwell and his new son, Zayne. Photo courtesy of Renata Freydin
Three decades apart, Lissa McGowan, a NICU nurse at the Children's Hospital at Saint Peter's University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J., poses with then-infant David Caldwell and his new son, Zayne. Photo courtesy of Renata Freydin

Serendipitous moment as nurse cares for father and son born 33 years apart

By Meryl Kornfield Time of article published Feb 21, 2020

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Washington - The first few days of a premature baby's life can be especially hellish for a new mom.

But Renata Freydin is resting easier knowing one nurse at a neonatal intensive care unit is there to watch over her new son, Zayne Caldwell, who was born 10 weeks early in January.

That's because the nurse, Lissa McGowan, has a connection to the family. She was there at the Children's Hospital at Saint Peter's University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey, 33 years ago when Zayne's father and Freydin's fiance, David Caldwell, was born - early just like his son, the Courier News first reported.

"The past 2 weeks have been filled with worries and uncertainty but we can breathe easy knowing my lil nugget's nurse is the same one that helped the man I love when he was in the same situation," Freydin posted on Facebook.

Freydin isn't the first mother to be comforted by McGowan's presence in the NICU. Three decades ago, Caldwell's late mother, Ida Bell, who called McGowan "nurse Lissa," became so attached to her son's caretaker that she included a picture of the smiling nurse and bundled baby in a photo album, Freydin told The Washington Post. Three decades later, the parents spotted the snapshot.

Caldwell pulled his old photo album out of storage after his son was born to see whether they looked similar. But it was Freydin who spotted the other likeness, the nurse.

"I saw a picture of her and instantly knew it was her, but he didn't believe me," she said.

To erase Caldwell's doubts, the couple brought the picture to the hospital, where three other nurses confirmed it was McGowan.

Another photo was taken in the NICU: This time, it was the nurse and Zayne. The couple replicated the same pose as Caldwell's original picture.

And just like Caldwell did, Zayne is quickly growing. While he was born at 3 pounds and 9 ounces, Freydin said, "he's getting bigger day by day." He now weighs in at close to 5 pounds. The couple visits him in the NICU every day. They're hoping he can come home by March.

"I can't go a day without seeing him," Freydin said. "Even when I see him, it's not enough."

But when Freydin isn't there and McGowan is, the new mom said, it feels like her fiance's mother is watching over her son.

McGowan, who didn't recognize Caldwell at first, was surprised to learn of the connection from the couple, she told The Post. The nurse estimates she's cared for thousands of babies during her 38 years at that hospital.

"The fact they were both born in this hospital, in this NICU, with me as their nurse, that in itself just beats the odds," McGowan said. "The picture just made it full circle."

The Washington Post

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