Sunday, December 10, 2023

Frontline Father’s Day: Health care workers share experiences of pandemic and fatherhood

Greg Donaldson is a Physician's Assistant and Riverside Doctors Hospital in Williamsburg and has had to take extra precautions to protect his family during the pandemic. (WYDaily/Courtesy Greg Donaldson)
Greg Donaldson is a physician’s assistant and Riverside Doctors Hospital in Williamsburg and has had to take extra precautions to protect his family during the pandemic. (WYDaily/Courtesy Greg Donaldson)

When Greg Donaldson gets home from work at Riverside Doctors Hospital in Williamsburg, his daughters know not to hug him.

His clothes go into a separate washing bin and he takes a shower before hearing about his daughters’ adventures that day.

And it’s all because Donaldson has been working as a physician’s assistant in the midst of a pandemic that he doesn’t want to bring into his home.

“We all live for our kids and do everything for them, so I think anytime there’s something that could hurt our child, it increases our worry,” he said. 

Donaldson his wife had discussions when the pandemic first came to the area about what would happen if one or both of them contracted the illness and had severe complications. 

And there’s the dying part.

“It’s a fear of abandonment,” he said. “Passing away and having our children left to others.”

In the meantime, he said his wife has had a revolving 14-day calendar in her head and was constantly keeping track of exposure times.

Donaldson said his daughters have become accustomed to his odd work habits and they regularly have discussions about what it means to bring an illness home. 

“This is part of their new normal,” he said. “They’re used to daddy putting on funny clothes when he goes to work, instead of wearing a suit and tie like other dads.”

Donaldson regularly works odd hours and late night shifts but during the height of the pandemic, he said it became a challenge to balance his work and home life because of increase in work. 

The challenge has also provided him with a new perspective as a father. He said he realizes there are aspects of regular life, such as taking his kids out to eat, that have become even more precious to him.

Donaldson and his family have spent a lot of time outdoors during the pandemic and that’s exactly how they plan to celebrate this Father’s Day — with a hike in a state park.

“It all just reminds you how lucky you are,” he said. “It’s the time we took for granted before but in the future we won’t.”

James “Granger” Woodard, a certified nursing aide at Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital, has some ideas for Father’s Day this year.

“I want to take my wife and my daughter and possibly our dogs and go to the beach or hike the mountains,” he said.

His daughter, Esme, is nearly 6 months old. But the plans are tentative since his wife, Kaitlyn, works as a surgical assistant at Sentara.

Woodward said they used to go up to the Blue Ridge Mountains “all the time” and is something special to them.

“I actually proposed to my wife there,” he said. “On top of Buffalo Mountain.”

Woodward works on the medical and surgical floor at Bon Secours and even handled some COVID-19 patients, doing vitals and patient care such as changing their dressings.

“It was a little nerve-racking at first,” he said. “I was taking microbiology at Thomas Nelson right before it hit.”

“It feels like it’s more important that we have more of a human interaction with them,” he said. “Yeah, you can video chat with them but it’s not the same without human contact.”

As nursing aides, Woodward said they had to make sure everyone going into COVID-19 patients’ rooms were gowned-up properly to not put anyone else at risk.

“We’re making sure we have their n95 masks, their hats, their gowns, making sure they have their gloves on, shoe protection from head to toe,” he said. “We have to make sure nothing was exposed.”

Woodward plans to enroll in ECPI University’s nursing program in the fall.

But most of all, he loves being a dad.

“You expect to lose sleep, you have to give up something,” he said. “In the end, it’s okay…you really feel that unconditional love for your child.”

Woodward said he can’t be a great man because that title is reserved for only one: Jesus Christ.

“I want to be able to achieve this nursing degree and give my daughter a good life,” he added. “I want her to be able to look up to her father and say he’s a good man.”


Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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