Thomas “T.J.” Tomasso’s only true break during the day may be the 50-minute drive home after his 12-hour ER shift. That’s because after a quick wardrobe change and a game of fetch with his dog, T.J. hits the road again for soccer practice at 10 a.m.
T.J. is a patient care tech in St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor’s emergency department by night and a semi-pro soccer player by day.
“I don’t know if you ever fully adjust to it, but you get used to it,” he describes the night shift.
Though new to clinical care, T.J. is a veteran on the soccer field. He grew up playing soccer at Canton High School, then at Southern Methodist University, before playing for two years with MLS’ New England Revolution.
This year, the six-foot-tall goalkeeper is returning to play for The Mighty Oak of Association Football Club Ann Arbor (AFC Ann Arbor), the only semi-pro soccer team in the county, whose third season began in May.
The arrangement works well with T.J.’s ER schedule, though it requires a lot of discipline to pull off. A full 12-hour shift (7 p.m. – 7 a.m.) and two hours of soccer practice don’t leave time for much else besides sleep.
But T.J. wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s something that I really enjoy,” he said.
T.J. brings the team sports mentality to work with him every day, and he said that focus comes in especially handy when dealing with difficult cases.
“There’s nothing like being in a team environment and going through all that stuff with the same group of guys,” T.J. said. “And that’s kind of similar to ER. It’s a tight-knit team,” he added.
T.J. said he’s grown close to his fellow colleagues since coming to St. Joe’s in 2015. Having two siblings who were born at the hospital, he said, it just seemed like the right fit. Not to mention, he gets valuable experience while he applies to nursing school. His years of training as a soccer goalkeeper has instilled in him a certain “calmness under pressure,” and after a tough day on the job, T.J. said, there’s nothing better than decompressing with his teammates on the pitch.
“It’s a little bit of an escape,” he said.
T.J. said playing soccer keeps him active and conscientious about living a healthy lifestyle, which can be a challenge when working long overnight shifts. He tries to limit fast food, eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water.
St. Joe’s recently announced a new collaboration with T.J.’s soccer team – a marquee sponsorship aimed at enhancing health and wellness programming. As the official wellness sponsor of AFC Ann Arbor, St. Joe’s will provide nutritional support to the team, as well as sponsor the The Mighty Oak Youth Project, which provides scholarships to youth players to attend camps and clinics. Saint Joseph Mercy Health System affiliate Probility Physical Therapy will also support The Mighty Oaks with athletic training services for the team’s practices and games.
T.J. calls it a “perfect partnership” because of both St. Joe’s and AFC Ann Arbor’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of the community.
From pitch to patient care, T.J. plans to work hard and play hard this spring – all the while working toward his goal of becoming a nurse.
Healthy Joes Share Their Journey
Colleagues all over Saint Joseph Mercy Health System are committing to eating smarter, getting active and inspiring others to do the same. We call these wellness champions “Healthy Joes.” A few of our Healthy Joes share their journeys and what they’ve learned along the way. If you have a story to share, we want to tell it! Please email us.