Dr. Megan Miller-Pankratz with her family, Elliot, Grayson and Lee Pankratz.

Physician shares motivation for giving

November 26, 2018

Seeing her premature daughter lying in the neonatal intensive care unit at Sanford Bismarck, Dr. Megan Miller-Pankratz felt her perspective change.

As an OB/GYN, Dr. Miller-Pankratz had seen her patients go through the rollercoaster of a NICU stay, but she couldn’t fully understand the difficulty of the experience until her own daughter, Elliot, required the expert and immediate care.

“The hardest thing you ever have to do is leave your baby in the hospital,” Dr. Miller-Pankratz said. “It’s much different being on the other side, and the experience changed my perspective in a good way. I can better relate to my patients and understand what they are going through.”

“I don’t think you can completely understand until you are in that spot with your own kids,” added her husband, Lee Pankratz.

Elliot was born at 33 weeks and spent 21 days in the NICU. Today, the 3-year-old is doing great.

Elliot and Grayson Pankratz.

Dr. Miller-Pankratz and Lee wanted to do something to help local families in similar situations. They recently created the Dr. Megan Miller-Pankratz and Lee Pankratz Endowment for the Child Life Program in Honor of Grayson and Elliot Pankratz.

Their gift supports the Above and Beyond fundraising campaign to create the region’s first Child Life program at Sanford Bismarck. Child Life Specialists work behind the scenes and in tandem with doctors and nurses to ensure each child who walks through our door has the best experience possible.

With well-established programs at Sanford Health in Fargo and Sioux Falls, Child Life services have helped improve pediatric outcomes, the quality of care and the overall patient and family experience.

“Those stressful situations spread through the whole family,” Dr. Miller-Pankratz said. “If Child Life can make the experience less stressful for the child then it will be less stress for the whole family.”

The couple hopes bringing Child Life to this region will help make a difficult situation better for children and the entire family. They can’t imagine how they would feel if Elliot or their son, 5-year-old Grayson, experienced another long-term hospital stay.

“I want moms and dads, brothers and sisters to look back at it as positive an experience as possible after going through a hospital stay,” Dr. Miller-Pankratz said.

Dr. Miller-Pankratz and Lee, who both grew up in Dickinson, believe that Child Life will make a special difference for families who have to travel far from home for medical care in Bismarck.

“We feel for families coming from out of town who don’t have the support we had with Elliot,” Lee said. “If Child Life can help families walk away with a positive experience, then we want to help bring those services to Western North Dakota.”

With their gift, the family is also sponsoring a patient room as part of the future NICU renovation at Sanford Bismarck.

To learn more about the Above and Beyond campaign and show your support today, visit sanfordhealthfoundation.org/childlife. Join us to take pediatric care to a new level and go above and beyond for local kids and families.