When Days of Our Lives star Galen Gering‘s character Rafael Hernandez had to say goodbye to baby Grace due to meningitis, no one knew how close to home it hit for the father of two.

Shortly after Galen’s second son Jensen arrived last July, “the doctors came to us at 2:30 in the morning to inform us they had to take a spinal tap because they worried he might have meningitis,” the actor explains. “So I had already been through this entire frickin’ drill already. As hard as it was to film those scenes, it was also easy because I had lived through this horrific storyline in real life.”

The former Passions star knows that daytime storylines can sometimes be “fantastical,” but says baby Grace’s death “made sense and felt very real” to him. “It was definitely heavy stuff,” Galen, 38, said of the filming. “That week, I didn’t talk to anyone — I just hung out in my dressing room. A couple of times after work, I would just sit in my car for an hour before entering my house.”

Thankfully Jensen, who turned one on July 17th, is “alive and healthy” says his relieved dad.

Galen and wife Jenna are also parents to son Dillon Phoenix, 3 next week.

— Angela