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They say love shows up when and where you least expect it. In the case of Melissa Sofia Martinez and Cameron Terpstra, it was the coronavirus pandemic that led to their marriage and solidified their devotion to each other.
The couple, who currently work as first responders on the front line of the pandemic in San Francisco, actually met years before COVID during their first Emergency Medical Technicians course. Though the pair thought they were simply attending classes to get an education, they quickly realized, however, that along with an education they had also found love.
“We took a first responder class together and started dating (during) the next level class, which was EMT,” Martinez recalled.
After dating for about three years, the couple decided to tie the knot during the first months of the pandemic last May.
“We had a COVID wedding with a whole 10 people there,” Martinez said, adding that “everyone was tested before.”
Many friends and family warned the newlyweds about the hardships of marriage, especially its first year, but the couple said getting married was what they wanted.
”We didn’t live together before getting married so people told us, ‘Oh, the first year of marriage is the hardest; it’s so hard to move in with somebody if you’ve never lived with them before,’” said Martinez.
But what no one expected was that getting married during a pandemic and working 12-hour shifts on the front lines would actually make the marriage stronger.
Since Martinez and Terpstra work in the same field, they can relate to one another when it comes to difficulties on the job. Martinez is as an EMT while Terpstra is a paramedic.
“We both work on ambulances responding to 911 calls and doing transfers,” Martinez said.
“Doing the same job does help, because people outside don’t really understand what we are doing at work,” Terpstra said. “She gets that if I come home and have a call sticking with me, I might not want to talk about it.”
The couple has also worked hard to ensure they do everything they can to keep themselves and their home environment safe — especially because of the constant contact they have with others at work.
“We keep our work stuff completely separate from our home stuff,” Terpstra said. “Everything I use at work goes into a box … and everything gets sprayed with disinfectant.”
Martinez said they make sure to change at work, so their home clothes and work clothes never come in contact with each other.
Working on ambulances and constantly having to be cautious, especially during COVID, has opened their eyes to what is really important and how quickly life can change.
”We kind of just figured out that there’s so much bigger stuff going on that like, who cares if you didn’t wash the dishes,” Martinez said.
Working through the pandemic has shown the couple how much quality time means to each other. And while some partners may prefer to have activities they can enjoy on their own, this couple has learned to appreciate all the time they are able to spend with each other.
“Over Thanksgiving I worked 98 hours, so you’re obviously not home a lot,” Terpstra said.
Luckily, since Martinez and Terpstra work in the same city, they often enjoy their commute to work and share the comfort of sleeping in together until it’s time to go back to another shift.
“For us, waking up is 2 or 3 in the afternoon, breakfast, gym and then we go to work,” Martinez said. “If he is working that same day with me, he will commute with me.”
The pair recalled how there have been times when they run into each other while transporting a patient and it’s those moments where they feel most safe on the job.
“I actually love working with my husband … especially when we are both on the same ambulance,” said Martinez. “I think no one is ever gonna have my back like my husband will.”
The Martinez and Terpstra said they are on occasion put into dangerous situations, and it’s nice to know they can work together and communicate just by looking at each other. Despite this unspoken language, however, the couple makes sure to keep things professional during work hours in order to get their jobs done.
“Honestly, I am a completely different person at work; I have a different personality,” Terpstra said. “So, it doesn’t clash at all.”
In fact many of the couple’s coworkers aren’t even aware that Martinez and Terpstra are married because of how seriously they take their work.
“It’s actually kind of funny, kind of an insider joke for us that we are married,” laughed Martinez.
With the pandemic showing little sign of slowing down, and the long hours they have to work, the newlyweds just want to make time for one another when they can.
“Whatever we do, we are gonna do it together,” Terpstra said.