Hometown Healing: Father & son Dr.’s work to battle COVID-19

Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 8:10 PM EST
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LENOIR COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) -Doctors across eastern Carolina are among those who have been on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19 for more than a year now and at UNC Lenoir Health Care in Kinston, that battle has been a family affair.

Another day of evaluating COVID-19 patients in the critical care unit for Dr. Robert Gallaher is another day in what has been a long, difficult, and emotional year.

Dr. Gallaher says, “In the past year I’ve had 50 deaths. Just marked my 50 death over this past weekend and that’s a lot. That’s 50 more than I want to see.”

Dr. Gallaher has experienced quite a bit in his 32-years as a pulmonologist, but nothing compared to the last 12 months. He says, “I’ve seen a lot of pain. A lot more death than I usually see and a lot of loneliness.”

And he says it’s not just the patients who have been affected. “I see a lot of nurses and cardiopulmonary folks depressed, hurting, experiencing a lot of emotional pain.”

But Dr. Gallaher has also seen the countless patients who have beaten COVID-19 thanks to the exceptional care and selflessness of his fellow doctors, nurses, and hospital leadership, who he says have gone above and beyond to comfort those in some of their most challenging moments, saying, “That’s been a joy for me.”

Dr. Gallaher has certainly seen it all over the past year and hospital officials say they’re glad they have someone like him on the frontlines, the kind of person you really wish you had more of. Well, at UNC Lenoir Health Care, they actually do. His son is a Dr. there as well.

Dr. Ryan Gallaher, an infectious disease doctor, has quite literally followed in his father’s footsteps, attending the same medical school, Marshall University in West Virginia, before returning to work alongside his dad following his residency. Some even refer to them as the dream team of doctors.

Dr. Ryan Gallaher says, “I like to think it’s certainly an added bonus since we communicate really well.”

His father says, “It’s one of the greatest joys that a father could have is having a son that has chosen the same line of work that I did.”

And they have shared the heartache and the triumphs of the past year, one that Dr. Ryan Gallaher describes as life altering. “It’s taken a toll on a lot of us and I just hope that patients and families when, yes it’s very frustrating to not be able to visit your loved one, or frustrating not to be able to do x,y, or z or whatever and inconvenient, but just hope to see the sacrifices that we’re all trying our best to provide care in this region.”

Care that your family can count on from theirs.

While Dr. Robert Gallaher has been practicing medicine in Lenoir County for more than three decades, his son got there just in time to play a crucial role in fighting the pandemic. Dr. Ryan Gallaher started in 2019 and is the only infectious disease doctor in the county.

You can click the Hometown Healing link below to find out how to thank all of those who have been on the frontlines battling COVID-19 over the past year, and be sure to watch our Hometown Healing special coming up on Saturday at 7 on WITN.

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