MINOOKA – A series of unfortunate events took Minooka resident Maria Tovo from her career into the unknown, but her perseverance and faith led her to reinvent herself.
Five years ago, flight nurse Tovo loaded a jet to prepare for an overnighter to pick up two patients. As she came down the steps, the door slammed down on top of her head and pushed her back into the jet. She was not knocked completely out and was allowed to fly. She said that was just the first part of her injuries that changed her life.
“There is a lot I don’t remember, but they called my manager and we spoke to each other. They would watch me and go ahead and fly,” Tovo said. “The next day, on the way back, I got electrocuted in the jet. There was a plug I was plugging into a sled, what the patient lays on, and I was plugging the laptop in and apparently the cord was frayed. I plugged it in and was sitting on a buckle, so it went through my hand and my back.”
She said the door injury caused damage to her brain and asscending and descending while flying caused further damage. After her electrocution, her body couldn’t take it anymore.
“That’s when my body went into rhabdomyolysis, that’s when your organs start to slowly shut down,” Tovo said.
She was hospitalized and lost a few months of memory. Neighbors said she was found wandering and slurring words. After speech and physical therapy, she dealt with anxiety and depression. She found out later the vertebrae in her neck were pushed into her spinal cord.
Tovo did not let this get her down. Right before neck surgery, she began to work out to increase muscular strength, which would also help with blood flow to the brain.
“I knew at that point I couldn’t do what I wanted to do and that was very upsetting. I tried going back to work once, was sent home, told I was unsafe. This brings back a lot of horrible memories,” Tovo said. “I had to figure out my purpose, what is it now that I’m meant to do. I defined my life before on what I was, being a nurse. I was much more than that, I tried to think of what could give back.”
She began to work out, train friends and family outside and volunteered with Rock Steady Boxing at K-Fit Minooka, a program designed for those with Parkinson’s. She said she prayed on what her next steps should be and in 2018, she opened her own gym in Channahon called Reap Fitness.
She offers circuit training, Rock Steady Boxing, boot camp classes, HIIT training, REAP training camp, kids boot camp, athletic performance training and circuit/boot camp classes. She said she has a goal to have classes designed to help veterans in the future.
Tovo has been certified in Rock Steady Boxing and a personal trainer through ACTION. She said her workouts vary each time as she designs each one for a whole body workout, while focusing on the core for strength and stability.
“I know how basketball, football, baseball players and boxers and wrestlers work out in different ways to train and I put that together in our workouts. I’m not overdoing one body part in one workout. We effectively workout every body part,” Tovo said.
Tovo has eight consistent clients in her Rock Steady Boxing class. She said she can get them to do exercises they normally would not want to do and wants them to know their abilities.
“I never would have thought about boxing for my strength-building and balance-building, plus it’s a good sweat. Maria keeps us going and is enthusiastic, and encourages us to succeed. Some people with these conditions have nowhere to go to build confidence,” client Dave DePasqua said.
Tovo said she hopes to be able to build a bigger gym to help more people. She would love to see more kids be involved in fitness at a younger age because this mother of three athletes sees injuries in children due to the lack of proper training.
For information, go to reap.fitness.com.