A month-long stay in the UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) wasn’t easy on premature twins Brayden and Bentley. It wasn’t easy on their parents, Maja and Josh Etringer.
And it wasn’t easy on a new big sister, when it’s best for 2-year olds to stay home.
“Having one child at home who needed me. Being here and separating myself. I complained, I cried,” said Maja Etringer. “But everyone was supportive. They didn’t judge me.”
Maja and Josh asked aloud if everything was going to be OK. They wondered if they were doing the right thing.
Allen Hospital neonatologist Dr. Pankaj Nagaraj provided the necessary expertise to help sick newborns grow, thrive and eventually go home for the first time. He also provided comfort for a family in distress.
“I had conversations with him that I maybe wouldn’t have with another doctor – maybe others wouldn’t have time, there are other babies,” Maja added. “He listened to every single thing I said, I asked silly questions but he answered every single one of them. He gave reassurance that everything will be OK.”
Brayden and Bentley returned to Allen Hospital for the annual NICU reunion as healthy seven-month olds. Dr. Nagaraj was happy to catch up, although it wasn’t the first time he was updated on their progress since discharge.
“I called his cell phone at 9:30 one night because the twins had just got their first shots and our pediatrician had told us to go to the emergency room,” said Maja. “I called Dr. Nagaraj, he walked me through it and I was able to sleep. Who else does that? I called his cell phone at 9:30 at night to ask a question.”
As happy as families are to see nurses and doctors they spent such critical time with in the past, the NICU staff beams at the sight of babies they got to know so well.
That’s the sense of community that develops in the NICU, and the Etringer family is appreciative of all that Dr. Nagaraj does to help keep precious newborns in need of careful supervision close to home.
“We’re lucky to have him as a doctor. It’s almost like having a big city doctor here in the Cedar Valley,” Josh said. “Dr. Nagaraj’s presence, just who he is makes you feel calm and less stressed.”