Christopher Johnson was unmarried and childless when he entered medical school in 2011.
That would change quickly.
Chris Johnson holds Madelyn, and his wife, Jillian, has Claire, left, and Sophia. Chris will receive the doctor of medicine degree Friday, May 29, and then study ophthalmology at Indiana University Health Ball Memorial for a year before serving his residency at Loyola University Hines VA Hospital in Chicago.
In 2012, he married Jillian, his girlfriend of three years. Both wanted children and they thought, “Why not start right away?”
“I would say that it doesn’t get any easier as you go further in your training, so we thought we would get started,” said Chris, who is now 26. “We always wanted a good number of kids.”
But he didn’t expect they would have three children in 18 months.
Their oldest daughter, Claire, was born May 17, 2013, which was four weeks before his first set of boards.
“I was doing 12-hour study days,” he said. “The night my wife went into labor, I was studying until 10:30 p.m. and then went to bed. She, of course, went into labor at midnight.”
Their twins, Sophia and Madelyn, arrived Dec. 30, 2014. Before the twins were born, Jillian was put on bed rest while he was interviewing for an ophthalmology residency.
Jillian’s first thought was, “Oh no, what are we going to do?” The next thing that ran through her head was that these babies were “not allowed to be born” until he got home from his interviews.
“But with a little luck and a lot of prayer and extra helping hands, the twins waited another month to bless us with their presence,” Jillian, who works as a claim representative at State Farm Insurance, said. “We were so relieved that they waited until Chris was done with interviews so I had help at home while I recovered.”
Originally, the babies were going to attend his graduation from the College of Medicine and Life Sciences Friday, May 29, at 2 p.m. at Stranahan Theater.
“However, we decided the kids won’t attend the ceremony as I found out it is hours long. We don’t want to torture those around us,” Chris said.
Reactions to their growing family have been varied. Some people think they are crazy. Others ask, “How do you have time to do anything?” Some say, “What were you thinking?” And then the most prying question: “Was this planned?”
“Not 100 percent, definitely not the twin part, although twins do run on my wife’s side of the family,” Chris said.
The couple met during their undergraduate studies at Ohio State University. Chris is from Celina, Ohio, and Jillian is from Sagamore Hills, Ohio. For the most part, they share parenting duties, but Jillian knows how important it is for Chris to do well in school.
After Claire was born, he would hold his daughter while he was studying. She would spit up on his book, which was “the bible of studying for the test,” he said.
“That was a difficult time,” Chris said. “My wife would get up with her a lot so I could focus on studying. Then during rotations, I was getting up three or four times a night with the baby. I wanted to give my wife some sanity.”
Jillian said Claire was a terrible sleeper when she was an infant. For the first month, she got up at every feeding, which was just about every hour around the clock. Eventually, she put Chris in charge of diaper changing and burping.
“We make a really great team, and I could never do it without him,” she said.
When his wife was five months pregnant with the twins, he had to complete a monthlong rotation in ophthalmology in Cleveland.
He remembers saying, “‘My wife is pregnant with twins and home alone with our daughter. What am I thinking?’”
Luckily, the twins were born during his winter break, but he only had six days with them before getting back to work. He can’t remember much from that time. He wasn’t sleeping much, obviously.
“We were up a long time each night,” he said and laughed.
The next step for the family is moving to Indiana for his internship at Ball Memorial in Muncie. After that, he will complete his residency at Loyola in Chicago.
Chris decided to become an ophthalmologist after observing a cataract surgery.
“I love the combination of medicine and the eyes,” he said. “I will be able to make an impact in people’s lives. Seeing people being able to see again made me love it.”
His mentor, Dr. Gerald Zelenock, professor and chair in the Department of Surgery at UT Health, said Chris is a hard-working and dedicated young doctor.
“He is a very mature student who accomplished much in medical school, which is a challenge as a married student with children.”
By the time he is finished with his residency, Claire will be in school, while his twins will be heading to kindergarten. Jillian said his dedication to education is inspiring.
“Chris is a great example of hard work and dedication for our daughters,” she said. “He is very dedicated to doing well in school and, obviously, as shown by his accomplishments, his hard work has truly paid off, but this is not at the expense of his family. I have never seen a father who is so amazing with his children. I know that the kids have no doubt that they are No. 1 in his life.”