Tom and Pat Falbo of Spring Grove make their exercise routine a priority in their life. Both have recovered from illness and injury much more quickly because of their personal fitness.
Tom and Pat Falbo of Spring Grove make their exercise routine a priority in their life. Both have recovered from illness and injury much more quickly because of their personal fitness.
For Tom and Pat Falbo of Spring Grove, keeping fit through a healthy exercise regime is a priority. In fact, Tom was one of the first people to sign up for a membership at the Spring Grove Fitness Center when the business opened in 2004. They have both been steady customers ever since.

The couple spoke recently from their favorite workout location.

“We really appreciate having this fitness center in town,” Pat said. “We have been coming here since the doors opened 12 years ago. Since we both retired, this is where we start our day. We usually come up here six or seven mornings every week. And even when we go on vacation, we try to do active things.”

This spring, the couple was set to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary with an extended trip to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. That's when fate intervened.

“We were planning about a month-long trip,” Tom said. “But my cardiologist said, 'You're not going.' I ended up having open heart surgery on the 25th of April... I had two valves replaced.”

It got worse. The couple had to endure a one-two punch on the day of Tom's surgery. The night before, Pat slipped and fell in a shower and broke her hip. So, they both went under the knife on the same day.

“He had his surgery Monday morning,” Pat recalled, “and I had mine on Monday afternoon. Tom was coming out of his (initial) surgery as I was in the pre-op area. Little did he know that he was going to be back in surgery that night.”

She continued, “He was on one floor and I was on another. Needless to say, our kids were troopers. In my recovery, they have been amazed at how quickly I have come back. I totally credit that to coming up here (to the fitness center) every day.”

Tom agreed. Even with some tough complications, he amazed the doctors, as well, by bouncing back quickly. Even so, the month of May was very difficult. Having the physical resources to stand up to the onslaught was important, he noted.

“I just completed cardiac rehab last week, very early because of how fit I was,” Tom stated. “On the last day of cardiac rehab, I had to go through a stress test.”

That included a measurement called “METS,” which stands for metabolic equivalents (multiples of resting oxygen uptake).

“After I was done, they told me my METS (score) was 11.9, which equates to a 37-year-old heart,” Tom said. “And I'm 70.”

And his better half? “About a month after Pat had surgery, we walked into her doctor's office and they asked her, 'Where's your walker?'” Tom said. “Pat hadn't used a walker for two weeks.”

She chuckled and said, “Anything I can get rid of, it's gone. I went through physical therapy for maybe just a week, and then I've been coming back up here. I get much more benefit out of coming up here.”

“Five years ago, I had breast cancer, and I had surgery. No big deal, but I was up here every morning before I went in for radiation treatments. I never had any side effects. People said, 'Aren't you tired?' I said, 'Not at all.'”

Tom agreed about the value of exercise as a part of a daily routine. “A lot of people think, 'I don't need it (exercise) in the summer time, since I can go walk.' Walking is great, but you don't get the cardio exercise that you do at a fitness center,” he said. “And it's not just about the cardio exercise. You need to work on your strength, core fitness and flexibility. That makes a huge difference.”

“We're so lucky to have (fitness center manger/trainer) Brandon Bergey here because he is willing to help everybody set up a program,” Pat said. “He knows that it's important to change up your routine from time to time as well. It's great to have this in a small community. The benefits have been huge for us.”

“We both say we're not back where we want to be yet, but it's beyond any expectations,” Tom added.

Bergey interjected that it’s never too late to start a fitness program. “I think that their being so active definitely sped up their recovery time,” he said of his clients. “Any age is a good age to begin or to get back into shape (after consulting with your physician). I see the Falbos at least 25 times per month.”

So, after a long and difficult spring, the Falbos finally took a trip, this time with their two sons and their wives. That week-long catamaran sailing expedition occurred from June 26 to July 2.

When first informed of the plan, Pat's orthopedic surgeon had her postpone for a month. A catamaran was just not stable enough for her to sail on just yet. But four weeks later, he reportedly said, “You are so far ahead of where most people are at this point, it will be fine, as long as you are careful.”

Tom added, “My surgeon said, ‘Yeah, go for it.’”

“We had a good time,” Pat said.

Activities included snorkeling, kayaking and swimming (but the couple didn't hike up a mountainside with the kids or try to ride a paddle board.)

“The other trip, we will reschedule,” Pat said. “That was for our 50th anniversary.”