FOXBOROUGH — Ashley Boccio’s work day was scheduled to start at 7:30 a.m. Friday, with the first of her five surgical cases at Long Island’s Northwell Hospital setting off a fairly typical day in the life of a third-year resident. This final year of Boccio’s residency in podiatry is set to conclude in July, but for now the young physician is at the whim of the hospital’s schedule makers, on call or in the operating room whenever needed.
Chris Hogan, a.k.a. Ashley’s husband, was scheduled to start his day Friday in the early morning hours as well, with the first of his team meetings at Gillette Stadium setting off a fairly typical day in the life of a professional football player. This fifth year of Hogan’s NFL career appears destined to conclude in February (at the Super Bowl in Minnesota), but for now, the 30-year-old wide receiver is at the whim of the Patriots’ schedule makers, on the field or in the film room whenever instructed.
Two demanding careers. One complicated life.
At some point Friday evening, after Boccio had finished those surgeries, after she’d packed the family’s SUV, after she’d loaded 9-month-old twins Chase and Parker into the back seat, after she’d crossed the Throgs Neck Bridge and hit Route 95 to cover the 200 or so miles between Port Washington and Mansfield, these two crazy lives would come together once again, ready to celebrate a large family Christmas in Massachusetts. Yet this is no holiday exception for Chris and Ashley, a remarkable young couple who have turned work-life balance into an art form, navigating through two similarly all-consuming careers to keep one growing family intact, emerging from a year of life-altering changes (a breakout football season and Super Bowl win, the birth of the twins and their wedding) with an even stronger commitment to each other.
One pro football player in New England plus one surgical resident on Long Island equals no problem, not when you have each other. And FaceTime. And an amazing nanny in the form of Chris’s sister, Erinn. And two sets of grandparents armed with helping hands. And a house on Long Island plus an in-season rental in Massachusetts for Chris and their two Great Danes, Jersie and Titan. And, as my own Irish mother used to say, the patience of two saints.
Of course they realize it’s more than a little bit nuts. As Ashley says during a short break at work in the busy days leading up to Christmas, “I don’t know how he does it.” As Chris marvels after a long day of practice leading into a Christmas Eve game against Buffalo, “I don’t know how she does it.”
The answer is obvious: They do it together. Theirs is a beautiful love story, one to restore faith not simply in the power of mutual respect, but of the sustainability of young devotion, of the connection built through shared dreams, of the magic that happens when two people truly want what’s best for each other, willing to do whatever they can to make it happen.
For years that onus fell to Ashley, who watched the fellow standout lacrosse player she met at Penn State trade in one sport for another to pursue his NFL dream, who remained by his side and at his back as he transferred to New Jersey’s Monmouth University for one season on the football field, who traversed the country with him even while graduating and attending medical school, working together through football stops in San Francisco, New York, Miami, Buffalo, and finally the payoff in New England. Chris hit it big with the Patriots, the breakout star in last year’s AFC Championship game win over Pittsburgh, a key contributor in New England’s thrilling comeback win over Atlanta in the Super Bowl, delivering on the three-year, $12 million offer sheet he’d signed before the season.
But Ashley was hitting it big too, earning her residency in the demanding surgical world, working through her pregnancy and returning after just four weeks of maternity leave, relying on those same uber-competitive genes as her husband to crush whatever challenge came her way.
“Ashley’s made countless sacrifices, put up with me being all over the country, training camps, being away six months of the year. I will never be able to repay what she’s done for me in my career,” Chris said. “On the flip side of things, I know how hard this woman has worked from Day One to get to med school, studying through the night, all week, every single day, to pass all her boards, all of her exams, get to residency, work like a frickin’ dog, 24-hour call a couple days a week, weekends, she just does it.
“You’d look at her and never know what she does, how easily she handles it. She works very hard in her profession, is very good at what she does. I support my wife. I want her to have a career. I want her to be happy, to have success at what she does. It’s hard for us, being away, to balance having twins, dogs, the house, the list goes on and on. But at the end of the day, she’s worked so hard to get where she’s at, I would never ask her to give that up. If anyone was to give up something, I would give up something to sacrifice for her to be able to live her dreams. I couldn’t be more proud of her and what she’s accomplished.”
He sees her in action across the FaceTime app every evening, getting the babies fed, washed, and dressed for bed. She laughs as he cajoles smiles out of the twins — Chase is a breeze, Parker makes him work for it — and they connect through conversation until the next weekend visit arrives, talking through their plans after her graduation, when she hopes to join the private orthopedic practice her father, also a surgeon, belongs to.
“From 200 miles away, he is totally involved, there every night,” Ashley said. “He’s amazing. And he’s my biggest cheerleader. He’s supported me through this 100 percent. This is the life I always dreamed of and I can’t believe it’s reality. Every day gets sweeter and sweeter, especially with the kids getting older and older. They’re starting to crawl, cruise, standing. And knowing I get to see Chris on the weekend keeps my head up, keeps me going.”
Because it’s hard when she wakes up at 2:30 on a postgame Monday morning to start the drive back to Long Island, hard when she hears the cries at 4:30 a.m., tending to the babies at an hour that qualifies as the middle of their night but signals the start of her day. But truth be told, she savors these early morning feedings for the time spent together.
“They are the most determined, motivated people,” said Erinn, herself a former college lacrosse player who is returning to school to add a nursing degree to the business one she already earned, but who moved in with Ashley and the kids while completing prerequisite courses. “Each recognizes how important the other’s goals are in life. Each is the other’s No. 1 fan and supporter. I think it’s amazing. Chris puts Ashley’s career at the same level as his NFL dream. They’re completely different, but he values that as much as he values his dream. They both know this isn’t a long-term thing; this is going to make their lives better and set them up for a beautiful life for their kids. I don’t know how they make it work, but they make it work. That’s Chris and Ashley. They’ll figure it out. They always end up on their feet.”
Two demanding careers. One complicated life.
And they wouldn’t have it any other way.