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Sisters-in-law share a bond through grief and joy— and gratitude toward their doctor

Their names were Joseph and Isabella. They’re the babies that sisters-in-law Lisa Eastlack and Jennie Eastlack lost halfway through their pregnancies— the babies whose healthy younger siblings, the women believe, are here because of maternalfetal medicine specialist Daniel Landers, M.D.

So Landers receives frequent photos of Jennie’s children, Olivia and Cooper, and Lisa’s kids, Andy and Clare … “whether he wants them or not!” Jennie says with a laugh.

The losses these two first-time mothers suffered called for thoughtful, empathetic, and collaborative care. That’s what Lisa, and later Jennie, found in Landers, and it’s why they recommend him to friends with high-risk pregnancies.

After losing Joseph, Lisa was brusquely told by physicians at another clinic that she had a weakened cervix and likely needed an abdominal cerclage, an invasive procedure designed to help prevent preterm birth but that carries a high risk for complications. “They just read my chart and told me, without talking to me, that that was my diagnosis and they were going to do an abdominal cerlcage.”

She read voraciously about weakened cervix; it didn’t seem to jibe with what she experienced during her pregnancy. Because she works in health care and is inquisitive by nature, she did some research that led her to Landers and the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.

Right away, she saw that Landers’s approach was different.

“He sat me down, and he didn’t look at my chart but just looked me in the eye and asked to hear what had happened. I probably spent an hour with him” that day, Lisa says. Eventually, “he ended up saying that he disagreed with the original diagnosis.”

Together they concluded that she’d had preterm labor and an infection that went unrecognized. During her next pregnancy, Landers put Lisa on anti-contraction medication at 16 weeks and bed rest at 20 weeks. Her son, Andy, today a healthy child who is almost 3 years old, was born at 32 weeks.

Jennie’s first pregnancy ended at 18 weeks. When her water broke in the middle of the night, the on-call practitioner she called at her clinic told her dismissively, “There’s no way your water broke; try to go back to sleep.” The next day she learned the nightmare was real. “The doctor who delivered [Isabella] didn’t even look at me. He said, ‘Just get a cerclage next time.’”

After her sister-in-law shared her story, Jennie took Lisa’s advice and went to Landers during her second pregnancy. “He listened to my whole story from beginning to end,” Jennie says, and again reached a different conclusion.

When she went into preterm labor at 19 weeks, Landers met her at the hospital door. Jennie ultimately made it to 39 weeks with Olivia, now 2.

Each woman now has two children. Lisa and Jennie also have a sisterly bond forged during some pretty dark times, infinite gratitude for their healthy kids, and deep appreciation for the doctor who helped them on that journey.

“He’s just so there for you. He’s in that moment with you 100 percent,” Jennie says. Landers relates to his patients not as “numbers or problems to be solved,” she adds, but as fellow human beings.