Frontline Worker Spotlight: Doctor-Nurse Couple on Finding Respite in Fitness and COVID’s Unspoken Collateral Damage

Both Candice and Dr. Luke Palmisano know what it’s like to ratchet up the intensity on a regular basis. The doctor-nurse power couple are regular members of CrossFit Echo Park in Los Angeles, CA, and also work in the emergency room at a hospital downtown. But one thing that’s prepared them both mentally and physically for the uncertain environment is fitness.

After a long shift wearing two masks and a face shield — an N95 and a surgical mask — being able to go home and workout in their home gym has made the days more bearable.

  • Candice Palmisano: “One hundred percent, working out has been a huge way to decompress.”
  • Luke Palmisano: “It has definitely been an interesting time and it all does start to take its toll, so fitness helps a lot.” 

One big thing: Dr. Palmisano is also a Type 1 diabetic who’s A1C (average blood glucose levels) has been much better since he started doing CrossFit and reducing his refined carbohydrate intake.

  • “I just thank God for the preparation my wife and I have had with our health, exercise and mental capacity we have built through CrossFit. I think it has prepared us pretty well,” Luke said.

How COVID has changed the dynamics of the emergency room: Though Luke said he was in full support of the stay-at-home order in California, remaining at home, hasn’t come without other kinds of problems.

  • Domestic abuse, child abuse, psychiatric breaks, people having heart attacks at home and not going to the hospital: These are the type of events both the Palmisano’s said they have seen too much of lately.
  • They’re handling domestic abuse violence, depression and self-inflicted harm cases “several times a day”, compared to once a week before the pandemic. 
  • “In many cases, people haven’t had access to their mental healthcare provider and they’re unable to cope. Maybe they’re not used to staying at home all the time with their children, or they lost their job,” Candice said.  

The last few months have been difficult for the Palmisano’s, but “this is what we signed up for.”

  • Dr. Palmisano: “I didn’t sign up to be a doctor so I could only work with people who are sane and healthy…And I’m at a hospital that’s close to skid row so we see all sorts of stuff across the board normally. But it has definitely been hard,” he said. 
  • Candice added: “I feel like every day I’m just privileged and honored to help the sickest and poorest people in the city. I knew as a young as a little kid this is what I wanted to do. To care for people.”

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