Staff photos by Tim Barber/ Bill Martin, 59, works out in the pool at the YMCA in Hixson following his recent completion of physical therapy at CHI Memorial.

Bill Martin, 59, suffered a back injury in 1989, but that didn't stop him from practicing taekwondo and earning a second degree black belt in the 1990s.

Injections and therapy helped him manage for years, until his grandkids came along. He needed two people to help him up off the floor after playing with them. Then he started feeling numbness and loss of feeling in the legs, and the injections stopped working. Falling was a regular occurrence, and the pain became excruciating.

"It was at the point that literally I was in tears in the doctor's office," Martin said.

In October 2018, he underwent back surgery, then a total hip replacement in April 2019. After the hip replacement, Martin started physical therapy — an important part of his recovery — at CHI Memorial.

But as the pain subsided, Martin faced a common post-surgery problem: How could he regain strength and fitness without hurting himself and backsliding? He also needed to shed the pounds he gained over the years as his old injury festered and he became more and more stagnant.

Becky Geren, a physical therapist at CHI Memorial, said patients like Martin are the inspiration for Memorial's new outpatient clinic based at the YMCA Healthy Living Center at North River in Hixson.

In the past, patients typically did physical therapy at the hospital and were prescribed a workout routine to maintain progress on their own after completing therapy after about six weeks. However, too often that next step toward a new healthy lifestyle never happened, she said.

Six months ago, Memorial moved all outpatient physical therapy services from the Hixson hospital to an office within the YMCA. Therapy sessions take place throughout the facility so patients can have a routine in place if they decide to join the gym after finishing therapy.

"It takes 30 days to start a new habit, and then we kind of use those extra couple of weeks to either get people to buy into the new habit or just to make sure that they have transitioned into maintaining those habits," Geren said, adding that it "can be scary to come into a place where there's tons of equipment."

After Martin completed therapy, he and his family — grandkids included — joined the gym. He's especially benefiting from aqua therapy in the pool, which doesn't place as much weight on his vulnerable hip joint. And he's back to being able to play with his grandkids. He attributes that success to the convenience of the program.

"I've got the best of both worlds, because I can refer back [to the physical therapists and personal trainers] and say, 'OK, at this point in my recovery can I try doing this?'" Martin said. "I would like to do leg presses to build up my knee muscles, but at this point in time that's a bad idea. That's, for me, the great benefit of it."

Contact Elizabeth Fite at or 423-757-6673.