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Keeping My Wife Strong on the Front Lines

April 14, 2020

A typical morning begins with a 5:30am wake-up call by our 7-month-old son followed by a race against the clock to get ourselves and him ready and out the door before an 8am work day start time. That all came to an abrupt halt one Mid-March morning, when I was awakened by a frantic whack to my chest by my wife. “I’ve been redeployed to Manhasset Hospital!” my panicked wife yells. My wife, Christine, a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, who has been practicing for 5 years in pediatric primary care, recently took a job with Northwell Hospital as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in neurology.

Unfortunately, during her training with Northwell, the COVID-19 Pandemic ramped up in the US, specifically here in NYC and Long Island. She was ripped from her comfortable niche with pediatrics and sent to work with adult COVID-19-positive patients in a hospital setting. Hysterical, and rightfully so, my wife had to show up for her first 12-hour overnight shift the following day. Two hours into her first shift she texted me three words, “I’m so scared.” However, as I knew she would, and as she always does, she survived the uncomfortable position and made a flawless transition into her “new role” on the front lines at the hospital dubbed the “Epicenter of COVID-19.”

For the past two weeks she has been up against the unavailability of quality nutrition during her long shifts, lack of sleep, extreme stress, and debilitating fear. As her husband and a Starting Strength coach, there was no way I could watch her crumble from the panic of this “invisible enemy.” I knew her programming and nutrition needed a big revision, but I also knew she needed to continue training, as it is one of the constants in her life that she enjoys. She was given a heavy work schedule of two days on/two days off with an indefinite end date, so I knew we had to reduce her training to better suit her temporary role.

Her training takes place on the evening of her first day off after she has tried to catch up on sleep and again on her second day off. She performs a 2-day split, training her squat and press on one day and her deadlift and bench on the next. Performing each lift once per week helps to keep her strength up during these trying times. There is no goal of setting PRs currently, merely maintaining strength. In fact, with such irregularity in her schedule, working up to a challenging couple of sets of five proves to be enough stress on some days.

Having been an on-and-off trainee for years and a consistent trainee since my son was born, she understands the value of hardship and what a hard set produces. She knows that a heavy set of fives allows her to look at an insurmountable task with focus, a clear, present mind, and confidence. She looks forward to her training days and approaches the bar with an “I can do this” mindset. Although this whirlwind of what is considered our new-normal has been taxing on her physically and emotionally, getting under a bar and hitting a hard set of fives has new purpose – strength for the first time is a byproduct and balance in her life is the primary response. Balance between a mountain of stress, fear, and pure chaos in her new role. Balance that allows her to focus her safety, the safety of her peers and the hundreds of patients admitted each night. Balance that gives her the energy and strength to be a mom, a wife, a daughter and now more than ever a hero.

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