Hospital chimes signal birth of great grandchild

04 September 2020


When James Tribe thought about the impending birth of his daughter, the top of his to-do list was capturing a photo with four generations of family, including his 92-year-old grandfather Kelvin.

But with their baby due to be born in the COVID-19 pandemic, and ailing health landing James’ grandfather in The Wesley Hospital, James and wife Robyn knew the family photo may not happen as hoped.

“It played on my mind when COVID-19 broke out and we were a bit uncertain about what was going to happen,” said Robyn. “I think there was a little grieving process for me, knowing James, Riley, and I couldn’t have visitors, but it was just a small thing we could do to help keep everyone healthy.”

As Robyn’s due date neared, and Kelvin needed a longer stay in hospital, the family realised they may be at The Wesley at the same time.

“Gramps had started to get dispirited being unwell, but told us he’d enjoyed hearing the bells that chime through the hospital when a baby is born… and that he was looking forward to hearing our bells.”

So when baby Riley was born, James said he knew his first phone call had to be to his grandfather.

“He was very emotional when I said the next bells he would hear would be for the birth of his great granddaughter. We were both a gibbering mess and couldn’t really speak, but I’ll remember that phone call forever.”

At 1:35 in the afternoon, on 29 April 2020, chimes sounded throughout The Wesley Hospital to mark the birth of Riley Jean Tribe.

James said fifteen minutes later, a nurse from his grandfather’s ward was in maternity hatching a plan.

“She said ‘right! We’ll get your grandfather in a wheelchair and get him to the other side of the glass doors, and your mum is visiting him, so she can be with your grandfather on the other side too’.

Robyn said it was such a nice idea: “All the staff were saying ‘they need to meet; we have to make this happen; how can we still do this and keep everyone safe’. They had a nurse on their side taking photos and we had a nurse on our side taking photos too.”

Cradling his newborn daughter in his arms, James stood inside The Wesley’s maternity ward and watched his mother wheel his grandfather to the other side of the glass doors. 

“A couple of weeks ago my mum asked how we were going to introduce our daughter to the family with the current restrictions, and I told her about the photo I really wanted with four generations of our family. And we were able to get it. It just looked a little different. But it was perfect.”

Note: Baby Riley was born in April 2020 when visitors were restricted from entering the hospital during COVID-19 for the safety of patients, staff and doctors. 

great grandfather and Riley

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