Mary Jo Klatt: heart of a hero - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Mary Jo Klatt: heart of a hero

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by Sunny Layne

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- One of NBC's hit shows is called "Heroes." It tells the story of otherwise ordinary people who discover they have extraordinary powers. Of course we know it's science fiction, but one eastern Iowa woman's story proves the show's premise isn't far-off. A so-called ordinary person discovering she has extraordinary power. Meet Mary Jo Klatt, someone you should know.

Mary Jo Klatt leads a heart-pumping aerobics class at Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo.

"She gets everyone going," student and friend Janice Glasson said. "She's always up. She's a remarkable kid, just remarkable."

"Mary Jo is a hero to anyone who knows her," friend Jan Smith said.

Klatt's love of fitness has spread to countless others. She has taught aerobics for 25 years now.  

"I've been interested in fitness since I was born," Klatt said.  "I was always playing with the boys outside."

So when her heart nearly failed her four years ago, this mother of two was shocked.

"I went a year and a half with chest pains until I finally took a treadmill test," Klatt said. "They ripped me off the treadmill, put me in a room, and I never went home again."

Two days after a stress test, Mary Jo received double bypass surgery. Her arteries were 90 percent blocked.

"They said 'There's an angel watching over you Mary Jo, I don't know why you're alive,'" Klatt said. 

Her genetics gave her bad cholesterol, but Klatt gave herself the gift of fitness.

"I'd be dead if I hadn't been fit," she said.

The close-call left Klatt grateful for her life, and determined none of her many friends would experience the same emergency.

"If a friend complains of something, follow through for them if they won't follow through, "Klatt said.

It took Mary Jo just a year to return to her love of teaching aerobics. But perhaps her heart's greatest test came in June of 2008.

"Water was up to here..." Klatt said, holding her hand more than five feet above the ground in her living room.

Flood waters rushed over San Souci island, drowning Klatt's beloved home of nearly 30 years.

"We were working so hard, and then the flood came," she said.  "We evacuated. We had nowhere to go that night."

Friends say even a heartbroken Mary Jo stopped to reach out to others.

"She was worried about her own stuff but still managed to come up and help with sandbags with all the San Souci folks," friend Rebecca Klatt Kuhlman said. "It's very admirable to see regardless of what's going on in life, she's willing to step-up and help other people. To me, that's what being a hero is all about."

"She always has such a positive attitude and encourages everyone to reach their full potential," Smith said.

"She inspires people so much to be better and do better and I just can't say enough good things about her," Kuhlman said.

After surviving a string of harrowing events and now without a permanent home, Mary Jo Klatt presses forward.

"After you have something like that happen to you, you just go on," she said. "It does give you a lot of power and a good feeling you can make it through and can make it through anything."

Proving once again, she has the heart of a hero.

To control her cholesterol, Mary Jo takes medication now.

She encourages all of us to pay close attention to the signals our body gives us, and to encourage our friends to do the same.

KWWL partnered with Speaking of Women's Health to honor Mary Jo Klatt as the 2008 Everyday Superhero.

Online Reporter: Sunny Layne

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