Mercy employee Alex Camacho talks about what motivates him to stay healthy while juggling a demanding career and a busy family life.
Alex Camacho, RN, has a lot of people depending on him — his wife, Monica, his 2-year-old son, Adrian, his coworkers in the ICU and his patients — and he doesn’t take his responsibilities lightly. “I’m always trying to better myself,” he said.
A Green resident, his father’s career moved the family from his native country, Venezuela, to Akron when Alex was a child. A recent graduate of Stark State College’s nursing program, Alex started his career at Mercy as a biomedical equipment technician nine years ago.
Juggling a stressful and physically demanding career with his busy family life motivates Alex to take care of himself so he can be there for others.
Recognizing the need for self-care
“Interacting with people is the best part of my job,” Alex said. “In the ICU, I like helping coworkers and doctors come up with a plan for treatment.” This month, Alex made his second trip to the Dominican Republic with Mercy’s medical mission team. “Being from South America and knowing how people live there, I can see how medical help can make a big difference in someone’s life.”
While he’s passionate about nursing, Alex knows that the physical and mental stresses of the job can wear on health care professionals.
“It’s very physically demanding work,” he said. “It takes a lot of strength to lift patients with the correct body mechanics, do chest compressions when required, and just being on your feet for 12-13 hours straight. Doing what I can to stay fit and healthy helps me be a better caregiver.”
When life gets hectic, it’s easy to fall into unhealthy habits
In a short period of time, Alex, 31, got married, became a father, and earned his nursing degree by going to school nights and weekends while working at Mercy 40 hours a week.
A longtime runner, Alex neglected his workouts. His meals were of the grab-and-go variety. Last summer, Alex weighed 200 pounds, the most he’s ever carried on his 5’10” frame. He also learned that his cholesterol levels were elevated.
“I want to be a healthier me.”
When he started his weight loss journey, Alex recommitted to running. “It’s something I like to do and it gives me the fastest results.”
By fall 2018, he was down to 165 pounds. “While the weight loss didn’t lower my cholesterol — it’s hereditary — it helped me physically, mentally and emotionally. I feel better about myself and I’m happier. It also boosted my energy levels, which helps both at work and at home.”
Exercise alone didn’t produce the results. “I really try to watch what I eat now,” Alex said. “Bad choices can undo your workout.”
He’s found ways to eat healthier, especially on the three or four days a week when he works the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift. After his morning run, he grabs a light breakfast at Mercy’s cafeteria, then at lunch, he opts for one of the cafeteria’s “healthier choice” entrées. “I try to drink lots of water throughout the day to stay hydrated, curb feelings of hunger and avoid mindless snacking,” he said. When he gets home, he usually eats a light meal before heading to bed.
Competition keeps it interesting
Most days, before he starts his shift, he hits the treadmill at Mercy’s Employee Fitness Center. “I like running at this time because it clears my head and I can think about the day ahead,” he said. Because the Employee Fitness Center is open 24/7, it’s a convenient way for him to get his run in, especially in inclement weather.
With many 5Ks under his belt, Alex earned a personal record (PR) at last October’s Bull Dog Dash in Green where he finished sixth place overall with a time of 19.34.
Later this month, Alex will lace up his running shoes for the Pro-Football HOF Marathon. A captain of Mercy’s “Team ICU” relay team, he will run the first leg of the relay, hand off to the next runner on his team, then keep running to complete a 13.1-mile half-marathon. “My goal is 1 hour, 45 minutes,” he said, “But anything less than 2 hours would be nice.”
Ready to run?
“Have goals, stay with your training and stick to your plan,” Alex said. He uses an app, Nike Plus Running, to help him stay on track. “There are lots of online programs that help you pace yourself and not overdo it.”