NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Call it fate, pure coincidence, or divine intervention.
A father and son, both born prematurely, were treated by the same nurse at the same Catholic hospital 33 years apart.
The discovery was made when engaged couple David Caldwell and Renata Freydin had their son, Zayne, on Jan. 30 — 10 weeks earlier than expected — at The Children’s Hospital at St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J. The baby was admitted to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit — the same unit where Caldwell was born six weeks early in 1986.
The coincidence came to light after Freydin was looking at an old baby album with photos of Caldwell, looking for physical similarities between him and Zayne. She was struck by a photo of baby Caldwell being held by neonatal nurse Lisa McGowan, the same woman taking care of their newborn. “I saw the picture of [baby David], and I’m literally screaming, ‘Who is this?’ and he was, like, ‘Oh that’s me and the nurse.’ And I said, ‘Who does this look like?’ He said, ‘It can’t be her, it can’t be her,’” Freydin said.
“The fact that I was in the time and place at the same moment [Caldwell] was there, with the baby, and we made the connection … It was more than coincidence. I could have been on the whole other side of the unit and never even saw them, let alone take care of them,” said McGowan, who has been a nurse at St. Peter’s since 1981.
NICU nurse Lisa McGowan holding baby David in 1986, and baby Zayne in 2020.
Caldwell said he remembers asking his mom who the nurse was in the photo holding him as a baby.
“My mom was, like, ‘Oh, that was your nurse. She was amazing. She helped me. She reassured me that you were going to be okay when I couldn’t see you. She took great care of you … We took that photo of you with her on the last day before you came home.’”
Caldwell said that it’s like having an “angel” to watch over his child, and he views it as a sign of encouragement from his mom, who passed in 2004.
Knowing McGowan is present for “King Zayne,” as the parents affectionally call the baby, has become a source of great comfort for Caldwell and Freydin, who for almost one month have had to leave their son’s life and wellness in the hands of the hospital staff. They made McGowan a primary nurse for Zayne.
McGowan said that as a nurse, she cares for the babies in the neonatal intensive care unit as if they were her own. She knows it’s hard for parents to leave their children there. “I was there then, and I’m here now. And hopefully giving them that comfort that I’m here and that they have a strong little guy, we will get him home as soon as he is ready,” McGowan said.
“We have a bond with our families,” the nurse said. “This one just goes back 33 years.”