GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - A doctor on Memorial’s COVID-19 task force has been on the frontlines of the coronavirus and on the frontlines of fatherhood.
Dr. John Grady has been working on Memorial Hospital’s Coronavirus Task Force since March. In May, he and his wife Christina became the proud parents of triplets. The babies - a boy named Luke and two girls named Blakely and Scarlett - were born May 6.
His wife was around five months pregnant when the pandemic began.
“In the early days while she was pregnant, we were in the midst of beginning the COVID crisis,” said the physician. “But on the coast, we were fortunate we weren’t having all that many cases and not that many were coming to the hospital. We were short on PPE and rapid tests at that time and trying to work through those issues. When she had the babies is about the time we started seeing some pickup in COVID but, of course with triplets, they don’t make it to term so they came out a little premature and they actually stayed a month in our NICU.”
It was a stressful time for Dr. Grady and his wife.
“They were born at about 33 weeks. They needed some respiratory help for several days to weeks. So, working, taking care of patients, and also visiting the NICU was certainly stressful,” said the physician. “It’s quite different being on the other end of that spectrum for sure.”
With COVID-19 restrictions in place, the triplet’s month-long stay at the NICU was also different.
“The visitor policy at Memorial has changed so that it’s only the parents with the child, and it’s actually only one parent per child which is stressful,” said Dr. Grady. “Since we had three of them, we were both allowed to go in.”
Although, Dr. Grady and Christina could visit their newborns, no one else in the family was able to visit.
“These were first grandchildren on either side so, of course, grandparents were dying to be able to see them but they just couldn’t, they couldn’t come to the hospital,” he said. “We were sending pictures and doing some FaceTime but grandparents weren’t able to see them, hold them.”
However, Dr. Grady says with the help of the NICU staff at Memorial Hospital, the triplets only had to stay a month.
“We were able to bring them home about six weeks ago. Since then, we’ve just been ironing out our routine, trying to keep them on the same schedule and trying to get a little sleep in the meantime.”
Because he is treating multiple COVID patients each day, Dr. Grady is taking as many precautions as possible to protect his family.
“For the first month or so, I actually had an RV parked close to the hospital where I would go and shower there and change and then come home,” he said.
“What I’ve been doing now is coming home and immediately taking off clothes and taking a shower, those types of things,” said the doctor. “We’ve been lucky with the PPE because the risk of transmission with it is relatively low. I’ve been taking care of a lot of these patients with COVID in the hospital without issues. But I for sure come home, undress, change, shower.”
Sleep doesn’t come as often for John and Christina anymore but life is a lot more exciting, even if it is busy.
“(Christina) has been an absolute rockstar through all of this,” said Dr. Grady. “While I’m at work, she’s been the one taking care of three kids… It’s been amazing to see. I certainly couldn’t do it alone.”
Dr. Grady has seen the pandemic from the frontline and says they are now busier than ever.
“It is certainly picking up,” Grady said, “Last week, as far as Memorial Hospital goes, we were our busiest so far out of all of this. The state is reporting around 1,600 new cases (Tuesday) and hospitalizations continue to go up across the state. We still have the resources to take care of folks but it’s certainly becoming more stressful just not knowing. This continues to grow and it’s stressful not knowing how bad it will get.”
As a new father, Dr. Grady warns the fight against COVID-19 isn’t over.
“I very much think folks need to take this seriously. Fortunately, most people will get over this if they do contract it, but it is those folks who are older with comorbidities. I have several people in the hospital who are not doing well with this virus and we’ve had some people not make it... We still have the resources to take care of folks but it’s certainly becoming more stressful just not knowing as this continues to grow and not knowing how bad it will get.”
Following the recommended health guidelines is something everyone can do to help curb the spread of the virus, said the physician.
“Just be aware that we really need to get this under control. Right now, our hospital resources are able to keep up but we don’t want to end up like our colleagues in New York City where they became overrun. Hand washing hygiene, social distancing, wearing a mask, trying to flatten this curve is very important.”