September 07, 2012 03:00 PM

Jedediah: Before and after – Courtesy Graham Elliot

On this season’s MasterChef, judge Graham Elliot has been busy putting home chefs through some grueling contests.

But at home, he’s been facing his biggest challenge: staying strong while his newborn son was in the hospital for six days.

A week after Jedediah Lindsay was born on Aug. 25, he had to be rushed to the emergency room.

“He had a fever of 100.5 and the doctor said, ‘You’ve got to take him to the ER for anything over 100,'” Elliot, 35, tells PEOPLE. “We expected it was going to be nothing, but his fever kept going up.”

Doctors had the baby boy undergo a series of tests — including an ultrasound, spinal tap and echocardiogram.

“They ran every test imaginable and they all came back negative,” shares Elliot. “To see your kid hooked up to so many things, it’s tough to stay positive. But the hardest thing [was] my wife Allie and I spent every hour of every day for the last six days in that hospital room and his eyes would open for maybe five minutes out of every 24 hours. There was a lot of crying and breakdown moments.”

Fortunately, doctors at Hope Children’s Hospital eventually determined the newborn was suffering from a viral infection and, after going 24 hours without a fever, discharged Jedediah Thursday. “We’re incredibly relieved and hope it’s finished,” says the Chicago-based chef.

Now that his nightmare is over, Elliot wants to thank everyone for their help.

“I can’t say enough about how grateful I am for all the support,” he says. “It’s a private matter, but at the same time you start looking for support any way you can. My Tweet asking for prayers and thoughts opened the floodgates and I realized how much people care even if they don’t know you personally. I feel like I owe everybody for the positive vibes.”

While the exhausted dad is happy to be home and reunited with Jedadiah’s big brothers Conrad, 23 months, and Mylo, 5, he admits to an extreme case of nerves about his youngest.

“We want him to be the boy in the bubble and not let him out for the next year,” says the chef. “We’re extra guarded and going to be super-protective until his immune system gets built up.”

The MasterChef finale airs Monday, Sept. 10 at 9 p.m. on FOX.

— Liza Hamm

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