Facility joins therapy, fitness

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Evans Rehabilitation Services and Health Quest Fitness takes the rehab journey to the next level.

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After knee replacement surgery, Tommy Tomlinson finished rehabilitation at the Evans facility. He said it was a "no-brainer" to join the fitness program.   Sara Caldwell/Staff
Sara Caldwell/Staff
After knee replacement surgery, Tommy Tomlinson finished rehabilitation at the Evans facility. He said it was a "no-brainer" to join the fitness program.

Jason Lott and his team of professional therapists and trainers work to create an environment that leads patients through rehab and into a more independent workout routine, keeping in mind the patient's medical history and problem areas.

"We tell them with us, where they will end up is far better than where they were before," Lott said.

With almost 20 years of experience, Lott decided on a degree in physical therapy on a sort of whim.

"I kind of fell into it," he said with a laugh. "Not much of a story there."

He worked with Medical College of Georgia's sports medicine for a few years, and in 2002, he opened a private practice in Evans. At that time, he said, the area was still being developed and there weren't any physical therapy options.

"At that point, it was just a good opportunity to provide access for people in the Evans area," he said.

The private practice quickly took off. In fact, Lott moved in 2005 to a 6,000 square foot space -- almost double what he started out with.

As he worked with patients, he would hear frequently that they wanted to continue working out and exercising, but were reluctant to join "big box" gyms. Many of his patients had not worked out before rehab, and didn't know where to begin on their own. The thought of getting used to a new facility and staff also made them dread rehab ending.

"A lot of them didn't used to work out," Lott said. "Once we forced them to do it for a few weeks, they see they like it."

In 2007, Lott started to extend his rehabilitation services for a few patients, working in more of a personal trainer role as they became more independent. There wasn't much space, however, and the personal training aspect was not able to grow at all.

"The facility worked from a therapy standpoint; it just didn't allow for any expansion for the wellness department," Lott said.

That space shortage grew more frustrating as more patients inquired about hanging around the facility after their "official" rehab was completed.

"I had a lot of people saying they liked it here, and could they just keep working out," he said. "It was a really small part of the business at that time, because we were kind of stuck."

Eventually, Lott felt strongly enough about the wellness aspect that he began looking for land to build a new, customized facility to house both parts of his idea. He found a plot of land about a mile away and built a completely custom-designed gym and therapy center. Evans Rehabilitation and Health Quest Fitness opened its doors in May, and Lott said he has been pleased with its reception.

Tommy and Linda Tomlinson both have had knee replacement surgeries. They were so impressed at the rehab they received that they jumped at the chance to continue coming to the fitness facility.

Linda had both of her knees replaced last year after several surgeries and complications that left her with an especially long and slow road to recovery.

"She was a very sick girl for a long while there," Tommy said. "(Evans Rehab) helped her a lot, though, and they helped me a lot too."

The Tomlinsons went to a specialist in Tennessee for their surgeries and began their initial rehabilitation programs there. They knew that they would need to find a good therapist back home, however, and they visited several before deciding on Evans Rehab.

"We were immediately impressed," Tommy said. "From the front door in, we knew we wanted to be here."

After their rehab programs were over, the couple used the new fitness facility as a way to stay active while still being around staff that could design workouts around their physical weak points.

"It's like it has continued across the hall," Tommy said. "Given our history and experience with these folks, it was a no-brainer to stay here."

Through their work in rehab and continuing fitness program, the Tomlinsons say they have gotten into better shape than before their surgeries.

"We're getting in shape, losing weight, but we can really feel confident working out here because they know us," he said.

Although patients like the Tomlinsons are a group that Lott wants to reach, he's quick to clarify that the facility can be anything customers want it to be. With state-of-the-art equipment and a highly trained personal trainer, Health Quest is not just for physical therapy patients at the end of rehab.

The beauty of the side-by-side design, he said, is that members can exercise in a facility that specializes in injury prevention and watch out for incorrect technique.

"We provide a comfortable environment with a staff that has an exceptional knowledge base," Lott said.

The fitness area can accommodate up to 25 people at one time,and is open 24 hours a day with surveillance and access with a key card. On a first visit, members receive a complimentary consultation with a Health Quest trainer. The trainer then educates them on how to use some of the more specialized equipment and gives them pointers on what kinds of exercises to highlight or avoid, based on medical history.

Since opening in May, Health Quest has increased membership by 50 percent, and Lott expects that number to increase. He's optimistic about this idea, mostly because his years of experience have made him confident that there is a definite need for it.

"Years of thought went into making it come to be this way," he said. "There's certainly not anything like this anywhere around here."

Lott said he feels fortunate to be able to have his own practice and to be implementing an idea he believes in.

"Healthcare is so uncertain right now, it's a precarious time to take on a big investment," he said. "I believe in this, though, and I know people want it."

Jason Lott

HOMETOWN: Blackville, S.C.

FAMILY: Wife, Jodi; sons Dalton, 10, and Colby, 3

EDUCATION: B.S. in physical therapy from Clemson University and Medical University of South Carolina

HOBBIES: Fishing, grilling out and spending time with family

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