The Life-Saving Impact of Group Fitness at the Y

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The A.E. Finley YMCA has long been a part of Courtney Barlow and her family’s routine. She and her husband, Thomas, work out together. Her kids love the playhouse, swim lessons, swim team, and Youth Soccer. But in February, Courtney experienced a difficult situation that was well outside of her normal routine and she credits the Y with helping her and her family get through it.

Courtney grew up in Raleigh and frequently participated in youth programs at the Finley YMCA as a child and teenager. She met Thomas when they were both summer campers. Courtney and Thomas moved to Virginia Beach when Thomas served in the Navy from 2006 - 2015. When Thomas left the service, they decided to relocate back to Raleigh.

“When I started my new job as a nurse at Duke, I decided to re-join the Y,” says Courtney. “I knew the Finley YMCA would be a great fit for our family.”

It didn’t take Courtney long to discover a passion for Finley’s various group fitness classes, particularly Strength Train Together. “I was always interested in weight training, but too intimidated to do it on my own. When Finley introduced Strength Train Together, I felt like it would be an awesome challenge for me, but in the group fitness format I already felt comfortable with.” Courtney took the basics of weight training that she learned in Strength Train Together and began to feel more comfortable with doing some weight training on her own, or with her favorite workout partner, Thomas.  

But in September of 2016, Thomas became ill and was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer. As Thomas started to go through chemo, the Y became an even bigger part of the Barlows’ lives. Thomas lost over 40 pounds due to his illness but was able to walk on the treadmill and participate in Gentle Yoga to help recover. Courtney knew that the Y was a place she could drop the kids off to have some fun so that she could take some time to herself. The Y was an important part of the Barlow family’s “new” routine.

On February 8, 2017, Courtney found Thomas unconscious and without a pulse in their bedroom. She immediately jumped into action, dialing 911 and beginning CPR. She delivered six minutes of CPR before EMS arrived and defibrillated Thomas, reviving his pulse. He survived with zero neurological effects!

“Strength Train Together saved my husband’s life,” says Courtney. “It’s the reason I gained the strength I needed to pull Thomas out of bed and do chest compressions for six full minutes. I am so grateful I had the tools I needed!”

Courtney, Thomas, and the rest of the Barlow family are thankful to be able to share the story of how the Y was there for them even when their routine was forced to change. Now, they’re settling back into a more normal routine. “Thomas is my hero,” says Courtney. “He’s a fantastic dad and the love of my life. I am thankful for every day I get to spend with him. I am also grateful to the Y for its role in my family’s mental, physical and spiritual health during this difficult year.”