"We've Come A Long Way:" Henry Ford Nurse Speaks Out About NASCAR Tribute And Fighting On The Frontlines

"It was like something out of a movie"

WWJ News
May 17, 2020 - 3:14 pm
henry ford hospital detroit

(Photo: WWJ/Mike Campbell)

(WWJ) Two Henry Ford Health System nurses will have their names displayed on the cars of two of NASCAR’s star drivers this Sunday in a salute to frontline workers.

The name of Mike Palmer, 37, of Walled Lake will be displayed on Jimmie Johnson’s race car above the driver door’s handle.  

Palmer is an emergency department nurse at Henry Ford’s West Bloomfield campus.

Johnson surprised Palmer with a Zoom call a couple weeks ago to “thank him for his sacrifice,” according to the release. Palmer lived separately from his son Mikey, 9, while fighting the pandemic.

Palmer told WWJ’s Louis Ricard the call was a big treat because Johnson is his “favorite driver.”

NASCAR's tribute is not the only encouraging news in Palmer's life. 

Palmer said he is seeing less coronavirus patients at Henry Ford Health System in recent weeks.

“If you were to go through the hospital now versus ten weeks ago, it’s like almost a complete 180. We have fought hard through this.”

The unknown was one of the scariest parts at the beginning of the pandemic, according to Palmer.

“At the beginning, it was a day-by-day kind of thing. Nobody knew what was happening,” Palmer said. “…By in large, we know what to do now.”

He says, after two and a half months on the frontlines, he understands how NASCAR drivers feel in the heat of the race.

“It really did look like a scene out of a movie….” Palmer said. “There was a lot of adrenaline, a lot of unknown just like in racing.”

Despite it all, Palmer told WWJ he thinks Michigan is ready to take the next step forward.

“I really hope the Stay at Home Order is lifted (on the 28th),” Palmer said. “I do believe we’ve come a long enough way.”

He said his friends in some other states have seen a downward trend in cases since reopening.

If there is a second spike, Palmer said he and his team feel ready for it.

“We have educated ourselves. We have studied the data,” Palmer said.

Palmer is not the only Metro Detroit nurse receiving an honor on the NASCAR racetrack.

Martina Symons, 28, of Livonia will have her name displayed on the driver’s door handle of Brad Keselowski’s car, a Rochester Hills native.

Both nurses will take part in the “Drivers, start your engines!” declaration at the beginning of the race through videos they sent in remotely . The race kicks off at 3:30pm.

34 additional EMTs, doctors and nurses from around the country will also be a part of NASCAR's “Honorary Grand Marshal.”

While Symons and Palmer will be the only local nurses officially honored at the race; Palmer said all of the frontline workers at Henry Ford will be along for the ride.

“I know my name will be on the car," Palmer said. "But my name represents Henry Ford, and that represents all my coworkers.”