Nurse Becomes Mom, Patient Becomes Son: Izaiah’s Journey to a Forever Family

forever family

In what sounds like a storyline straight out of an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, meet the Renown NICU nurse who went from caring for a precariously premature newborn at work — to becoming his forever family. 

Izaiah James Trautwein is a typically happy, healthy 18-month-old boy.

His favorite snacks? Goldfish crackers.

His favorite toy? The drums (the loudest things in the house, of course.)

His favorite activity?


“He climbs on everything that he’s not supposed to,” chuckles his mom, JoAnna Trautwein, a nurse in Renown’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). 

But what sounds like a typical story is anything but, because this mom was never pregnant with Izaiah; instead, she was his first nurse. And when she met him, she had no idea she would one day become his forever family.

The Day Mom Met Her Future Son

Izaiah was born prematurely at 24 weeks, weighing only 1 pound, 8 ounces and measuring 12 inches long. He was quickly admitted to Renown’s NICU, where he spent the first 128 days of his life.

He required oxygen, medications and also many other specialized treatments. JoAnna estimates that of premature babies born at 24 weeks, approximately 50 percent survive. And of those 50 percent, approximately half of those have serious disabilities.

“He shouldn’t be alive, he shouldn’t be normal, but he is,” JoAnna says. “And I attribute a lot of that to the care at Renown.”

Izaiah’s biological mother and father were unable to care for him. So the team of Renown NICU nurses — including JoAnna — were his caregivers for those all-important first few months. JoAnna became one of his primary nurses, spending long shifts devoted to nurturing him to health. 


But as he grew stronger and approached time to go home, JoAnna felt uneasy letting him enter the foster care system. He was still on oxygen and had many demanding medical needs. Plus, premature babies need to be fed a certain way, they have to be held a certain way along with other unique care requirements.

As a Renown NICU nurse for the past four years, JoAnna knew she had the unique knowledge and skills to foster Izaiah and care for him properly at home.

Deciding to Become His Forever Family

She had been considering fostering for a while and decided to take the opportunity with Izaiah when she came to a crucial realization.

“I was the only person in the world that he knew,” she remembers.forever family JoAnna & Izaiah

The reality is, Izaiah had all of his firsts with JoAnna. She was the first person to hold him. She was the first person to give him a bath. JoAnna was the first person he spent holidays with. She was his first caregiver, and she decided she also wanted to be the person to care for him for life. 

After Izaiah’s biological parents made the decision to do what they felt was best for him, JoAnna went through all the proper legal steps and paperwork to officially adopt him in August 2018 — exactly one year after she started fostering him.

And as he grows, JoAnna is working hard as a new mom to keep up with him, predict potential climbing catastrophes and keep him safe and healthy.

She is looking forward to all the future firsts and milestones with her son — who started out in life as a precarious preemie patient, but found his home in the arms of his nurse and future mommy.

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