Everyone loves a good comeback story and San Jose’s Tom Butts is no exception. In 2020, 67-year old Tom had COVID-19. He was fighting for his life on a ventilator, in a medically-induced coma at Kaiser Permanente San Jose. Tom left the hospital 110 days later weighing only 97 lbs. As a lifelong triathlete, Tom was used to pushing his body to the limits in fitness training, but he knew that if he ever wanted to run, cycle, or swim another mile, he’d need to train like never before and learn to use his lungs again.

The YMCA was with him every challenging step of the way – from his time in the hospital to his return to Y fitness classes. A longtime member of the South Valley Family YMCA, Tom’s YMCA friends and family were eager to join him on his road to recovery. While in the hospital, Y staff kept in touch with his wife and followed his progress. Once home, as Tom was completing his physical therapy, his friends at the Y found ways to connect and express support and motivation, like the signs they held up for him: “Tom is our inspiration.”

With the help and support of instructors and fellow Y members of South Valley Family YMCA’s fitness program, Tom quickly gained back the muscle he’d lost. Staff ensured he had the accommodation he needed to accomplish his health goals. Members enthusiastically joined him in classes, understanding the herculean task in front of him. Tom has set his sights on a half-Ironman competition, and the YMCA will continue to be there for every step, spin, and lap he takes in preparation for this revered triathlete competition.

Like many Y members before him, Tom knows that the Y’s personal trainers take health and fitness goals seriously. By working with Y members to create custom wellness programs as unique as the members themselves, the Y family is committed to keeping the Bay Area healthy, active, and strong, especially in the midst of a global health crisis. These trainers offer expert virtual advice and online training as well as accountability to Y members, whether those members are managing their weight, trying out for a new sport, taking swim lessons or—like Tom—learning how to breathe, run, peddle, and swim all over again.

While Tom’s experience contracting COVID was hardly unique—Tom’s competitiveness, grit, and sheer survivor mentality makes him one-of-a-kind. When Tom crosses the finish line at his next Ironman competition, Tom’s YMCA friends and family will be on the sidelines, cheering him on, perhaps with new posters and signs of support as Tom continues to inspire everyone around him.

And for anyone outside of the Y family that wants to move from the sidelines to the race itself, Tom will be there to support them with an army of friends, expert trainers, and a stationary bike that will help them not only survive but thrive throughout the pandemic.