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NICU nurse who cared for premature baby over 30 years ago now caring for his newborn son


When David Caldwell pulled his own baby book out from storage, a week after his son Zayne was born, he never expected to see a familiar face in the old photo: his son’s NICU nurse.

Lissa McGowan, a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, had helped take care of Caldwell when he was born in November of 1986, six weeks early.

Decades later, she also helped take care of Caldwell’s son, who was born in the same hospital and was also born prematurely–10 weeks early.

The coincidence–deemed “fate” by Renata Freydin, Caldwell’s fianc\u00e9e and Zayne’s mom–was noticed by Freydin, after Caldwell unearthed his baby book to compare what he looked like to the couple’s child.

“I was looking through the photos and noticed right away, a picture of him and Lissa,” Freydin said. “I started freaking out.”

Caldwell says he was “in denial,” saying it wasn’t the same person, and he didn’t recognize McGowan at all. “I’m still in shock that it’s her,” he told NJ Advance Media.

The couple took the photo to the NICU that night, where another nurse looked and it and instantly confirmed the identity of McGowan in the older photo, Freydin said. They recreated the original photo with her on Valentine’s Day.

McGowan was so surprised, Freydin said. “She was just over the moon,” she said. “I showed her the original photo and she started walking around the NICU and showed all the nurses.”

The couple, who lives in Edison, plans to marry next year.

Zayne, who was born on Jan. 30 and weighed 3 pounds, 9 ounces, is doing well, Freydin said. He’s growing and getting bigger, she said, and she called the NICU nurses caring for him, amazing.

Caldwell said he feels this coincidence is a sign his mom, who died in 2004, is looking out for him. “Basically knowing that my mom’s watching over us, God’s watching over us, and we’re going to be alright,” he said.

McGowan was not immediately available for comment. “The fact that I was the one who crossed paths, it’s kind of interesting,” she told NorthJersey.com. “It really could have been any nurse taking care of his baby and I could have never any contact with him.”

The couple exchanged contact information with McGowan and plan to stay in touch with her for a long time, Caldwell said.

“It was insane knowing the same nurse, same hospital, 33 years later, is taking care of our child and it’s not like we asked for her,” Freydin said. “It’s not a coincidence, it’s fate. She was meant to take care of our son.”

Brianna Kudisch may be reached at bkudisch@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @briannakudisch. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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