Getting a second chance to do it right

Published 12:01 am Saturday, October 8, 2022

Our local beginning runners class meets at the Salisbury Police Department, and it was there that I met Joe Martinez, a detective in SPD’s Criminal Investigation Division. Here is his story.

Joe is 33 years old, and a police officer for over nine years (all with SPD). Originally from Brentwood, N.Y., Joe’s parents moved the family to Salisbury when he was in the eighth grade. He has a wife and a nine-year-old daughter.

Growing up, Joe always wanted to be a police officer. He said, “At six years old, I remember telling my first-grade teacher that I was going to be a police officer one day. I always admired the work law enforcement did to make the community safe and wanted to be a part of that. After graduating from Salisbury High School, I obtained a college degree in criminal justice and then applied for a job at SPD right away. I got the job in 2013!”

Joe started his job as a police officer working night shift, 6 p.m.-6 a.m. He was relatively healthy and said, “Being a newlywed, a first-time parent and a brand-new cop was pretty stressful during my first two years at SPD. Free time became very rare for me. Large amounts of coffee and sugary energy drinks became major staples in my life. Junk food became commonplace during a work shift due to convenience and availability.”

Joe gained weight but the rate increased as he transitioned from patrol officer to the more sedentary detective position.

Years of bad eating habits and consistent weight gain took its toll on Joe’s overall health. Sleep suffered, back pain increased and blood pressure skyrocketed. Found to be pre-diabetic, Joe’s BMI reached morbid obesity while he was at “high risk” for heart attacks and strokes. He said, “My health status concerned me, and I tried to do something about it.”

Joe joined the 2019 Fall Beginner’s Runners Class in an effort to turn things around. He said, “Running a mile was tough, but as the class progressed, I started to lose weight, increased my running distance and successfully completed a 5K race. I felt great! I wanted to keep going but then ‘life’ occurred, and I fell back into my unhealthy ways.”

On June 3, 2022, Joe weighed 280 pounds. At dinner with his daughter, he noticed half of his face went “numb.” That half was sagging but resolved itself after several minutes. Joe said, “I had no clue what had happened to me, so I went to the hospital that evening. To my complete shock, the doctors confirmed that I had suffered an “acute ischemic left side MCA stroke.” This event was a complete wake up call for me. My bad eating habits and lack of a consistent exercise were going to kill me. That night in the ER, I told myself that I needed to change, not just for me, but that my wife and daughter needed me.”

Joe’s first goal when leaving the hospital was to eliminate all heart attack/stroke risk factors. Eating better and regular exercise were back to stay and all sugary soft drinks, including sodas and sweet tea, were eliminated. He reduced consumption of alcohol and red meat. Joe said, “I think I’ve eaten more fish, turkey and chicken in the past four months than in the past four years. Fast food is gone too except for an occasional “cheat day’ for pizza or cheesecake.”

This eating lifestyle change has paid off. Joseph has lowered his bad cholesterol, increased his good cholesterol and lowered his A1C levels back to normal. He lost 25 pounds in the first 45 days and is no longer a pre-diabetic.

The weight loss motivated Joseph to get back in the gym. He said, “I wanted to get healthy again. I wanted to run again, wanted to “Run For My Life,” a cheesy quote I saw in a magazine one day. I began walking and doing elliptical workouts to improve my cardio. Workouts were about 30-45 minutes per session. The weight came off fast, sleep improved and my resting heart rate dropped. I had energy at work! My blood work/vitals kept getting better.”

Joe decided to run for the first time in several years, unsure if he could keep going. Shocked that he could do a mile on the treadmill with ease, each successive mile became easier and faster while more weight came off. Joe previously envied those who could run a 5K just for a regular workout, but soon he was doing it too!

On June 3, 2022, the day of the stroke and at 280 pounds, Joe’s total cholesterol was 286, triglycerides were 363, LDL or bad cholesterol was 170 and good cholesterol was 43. As of Oct. 5, Joe now weighs 227 pounds. Total cholesterol is 104, triglycerides are 98, bad cholesterol is 48 while the good cholesterol is 40.

Eating better and walking had been good for weight loss but running made the pounds melt away. Joe said, “I plan to fit back into my original 2013 SPD police uniform, just about 10 pounds away! I plan to continue to improve my health while maintaining zero risk factors for any bad cardiovascular events. Today I feel great, and I have running to thank for that. Visually seeing my progress motivates me to keep going. It’s still just one more mile at a time, but I do want to continue to ‘Run for My Life.’ ”