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Son of first Siskin Hospital patient benefits 31 years later

October 26, 2021

When Siskin Hospital opened its doors to its first patient in February 1990, no one was thinking about multi-generational care.

Rather, in great anticipation, the city celebrated the grand opening with TV and print coverage, featuring the hospital’s first patient, Robert “Sarge” Martin.

Thirty-one years later, his son, Randall Martin, also benefited from Siskin Hospital’s physical rehabilitation programs.

“When Dad came to Siskin Hospital, it was a big deal,” says Randall, 74. “He was on TV and the Chattanooga Times featured him in a write up about the hospital’s opening. Everything he said in that article is how he really felt.”

Mr. Martin, Sr. was a recent amputee in 1990, physically debilitated from a three-month nursing home stay. He’d become so weak that he was unable to lift himself out of his wheelchair, according to the newspaper article. The new rehabilitation hospital was his last hope of becoming independent.

“He was excited about coming over (from the nursing home),” says Randall of his father. “He always said he got the best care at Siskin Hospital.”

So when Randall broke a hip from a fall in September, he knew without question where he’d be going for physical rehabilitation. Not only because of his father’s experience, he says, but because in the intervening 31 years “the hospital’s reputation has grown so that it’s well-known and well-respected.”

Randall, a retired United Methodist Church minister, was also familiar with Siskin Hospital from his visits to patients. He made many trips across the pedway from Erlanger Medical Center to see parishioners who’d come to Siskin Hospital for their physical rehabilitation.

Earlier this year, Randall had been scheduled for a kidney transplant. Then Erlanger postponed all elective surgeries because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Randall decided to get prepped for dialysis while waiting for a new surgical date. He had just returned home from the first dialysis treatment and parked the car in the garage. The next thing he knew, he was in an ambulance headed to Erlanger. His blood pressure had dropped and he passed out in the garage, where his wife found him. It had never happened before.

“When Mr. Martin told his case manager that he was the son of the hospital’s first patient, we searched through our media archives for the article he mentioned,” says Teresa Dinger, vice president of patient access and marketing. “We were delighted when it was located, and to our surprise, the therapist in the 31-year-old photograph was still employed!”

A copy of the article was presented to Randall, and the therapist, Valerie Jones, was introduced.

“Did he give you a hard time?” Randall asked Valerie of his father, laughing. “He gave a lot of people a hard time. Thanks for taking care of Daddy.”

Randall’s father, Robert Martin (Ret. First Sergeant, U.S. Army) had moved his family to Chattanooga when he returned from the Korean War. There he served as an advisor to the National Guard and also worked at McCallie School.

“He was the typical First Sergeant Snorkle – fair, but you knew exactly what he expected of you,” says Randall. “He was a big guy and I had a healthy respect for him.”

While in high school, Randall decided to go into the ministry. He received his BA in theology from Tennessee Wesleyan and his MDiv from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. For 50 years, he served the United Methodist Church in East Tennessee and southwestern Virginia.

“My therapy has gone well,” says Randall. “My recovery from the hip injury is going very well. Siskin Hospital is a great treasure for Chattanooga.”

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Text “Siskinrehab” to 243725 to donate to Siskin Hospital or give online.