In Running, Work And Parenting, Fauci Paces Himself For The 'Marathon'

"I've been busy throughout my entire life, and I'm conscious of the fact that I missed a lot of things when they were growing up."

Heeding his own advice, Anthony Fauci and his wife, Christine Grady, will be spending Thanksgiving this year apart from their loved ones. It's the first time none of their three adult daughters will be home for the holiday.

Fauci, a physician who's the nation's top infectious disease expert, warned Americans this week to "think twice" about Thanksgiving plans that might risk spreading the coronavirus. By Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly advised that people stay home for the holiday for the same reason.

The couple's daughters chose not to visit this Thanksgiving because their 79-year-old father is in an age group that's at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

"I've been busy throughout my entire life, and I'm conscious of the fact that I missed a lot of things when they were growing up," Fauci told Grady in a StoryCorps interview this week. "So any chance I get to be with them is precious."

Still, he said he wants them to know he's proud of their decision.

"Proud of them in so many ways," added Grady.

The couple also recalled their early parenting days.

"Do you remember what it felt like to first become a dad?" Grady asked her husband.

"I was afraid," Fauci said, "that we had this responsibility for this baby."

"I was this highly respected physician. I can take care of any adult you want, but I don't know how to take care of a baby, so I was very nervous.

"When you have a baby in the house that's just born, you're afraid they're going to stop breathing or something. But I figured this has been going on for millennia, so I could handle it."

Grady asked Fauci, a longtime runner, whether he sees any parallels between running and parenting.

"Yes. The long haul of it — it's an uber-marathon, so you just have to hang in there and not give up," he said.

Grady, a nurse and bioethicist who serves as chief of the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, said, "I approach parenting with everything I've got, and I think I approach my work with everything I got too. And I know you do."

"I mean the idea of sticking with something and not giving up, even when it's painful," Fauci said. "What we're going through now is very, very stressful — stressful because there's an almost insurmountable work to do. The quicker you get a vaccine out that's safe and effective, the more lives are being saved."

Despite the unusual holiday this year, both Grady and Fauci agree they have a lot to be thankful for.

"Yeah, the thing that I'm most thankful is that, quite frankly, is you," Fauci told his wife.

"We have each other, that's for sure," Grady said.

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jey Born. NPR's Emma Bowman adapted it for the Web.

NPR — Jey Born contributed to this report.

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