By ANGIE CARNATHAN
Hilary Rendon, owner of Starkville Physical Therapy, is a hometown girl.
“I was born in Starkville at Felix Long Hospital,” Rendon said. “I grew up right here in this town, going to movies at the State Theatre, eating Sunday lunch at the Mississippi State University cafeteria, shopping downtown at Kleban’s shoe store and JCPenney’s and trying on lip gloss at Weir’s drugstore.”
Along the way, Rendon, who grew up as Hilary Harder, said she met a boy named Andrew Rendon. He was a hometown boy, too. They eventually married. They were high school sweethearts.
Rendon said she moved away to attend physical therapy school at University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson in 1989.
“Once I was married, Andrew and I moved home for a few years while he attended MSU to earn a master’s degree in public policy and administration,” Rendon said. “We left in 1996 for him to attend flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala.”
She and her husband later moved back to Starkville to be closer to their families, who mostly all still lived in Starkville.
“We wanted to be around family,” Rendon said. “We missed Christmases, births, spontaneous get-togethers that can only be accomplished when you live close to family. We both grew up in Starkville and knew what the town had to offer in terms of neighborhoods, schools and growth for us and our kids, personally and professionally.”
Hilary Rendon’s husband is currently serving on active duty as a maintenance test pilot in the Blackhawk helicopter.
“He is deployed with the 1108th TASMG, which is a unit in Gulfport,” Rendon said. “He is in northern Afghanistan, and will be back later this year. Before he was assigned to active duty last January, he was the Director of the Center for America’s Veterans on the MSU campus.”
Rendon said the list of things she has learned as a military wife is a long one, but they are skills for which she is proud.
“I have learned how to manage our household when I am alone, to offer pots and pans and sheets and pillows to a new family that is awaiting shipment of their household goods, to make a hot meal when a new baby arrives to show support and to be an ear or shoulder that a spouse needs to lean on or vent to when her spouse is gone,” Rendon said. “I am very proud of my husband’s service and I am proud to be a military wife –– anyone who has been one understands the job we do at home is to support the service member’s duty to our country. I am stronger than I thought, but I miss him every single minute of every single day.”
The decision to open her own business was a daunting one for Rendon, she said, but one that a family tragedy pushed her to make.
“I have always wanted to work for myself, but what did I know about incorporating a business, personnel management or securing referrals?” Rendon said. “When my brother-in-law passed away, I decided to throw caution to the wind and take a chance. I wanted to create a private practice that truly appealed to our patients — our customers — and provide quality care.”
Rendon said she has never regretted the choice, and feels that she benefits from her business as much as she hopes her patients do.
“I hate to admit, it’s rather selfish, but the feeling I get when someone feels better, moves better and understands how to manage their diagnosis is priceless,” Rendon said. “It is so amazing to make a difference in their quality of life. When I see someone in a store or on the soccer field months or years later and they are all smiles and I remember what I did for them, I am so thankful I was able to help.”
She said owning her own business does come with some headaches from time to time.
“Creating a paper trail for each patient you see, each visit they have, each complaint they verbalize can be an absolute nightmare,” Rendon said. “It’s necessary for billing and liability, but I hate it. Completely and totally hate it. A close second would be patient non-compliance with their home program. Many patients expect us to ‘fix’ something only when they are in the clinic. All in all, the time spent in the physical therapy office is small as compared to the life patients live outside my building. If they don’t follow their home program, how positive will their outcome be? Can they meet their goals by performing their exercises only when we are with them? The short answer is no.”
Rendon said most of it is a learning experience. Among the things she’s learned, Rendon counts patience, the art of listening and the knowledge that everyone has a story — a reason they present with the symptoms they have.
“I’ve learned that I can’t ‘fix’ everyone,” Rendon said. “But if I try with each and every treatment option I have, at least I tried. Diligence, more often than not, pays off.”
Rendon said she prides herself on having a personal connection with her patients.
“I think a rapport is extremely important between patient and physical therapist,” Rendon said. “We learn many things about them –– their pain, their fears, their weaknesses, their strengths and their difficulties with activities of daily life. I have found that when I let them know I care, patients take responsibility for their recovery, too.”
Her staff is like a family to her, according to Rendon. She credits them with the bulk of her success.
“I think my staff would tell you I put the patients first, with the happiness of the staff a close second,” Rendon said. “On their first day of work, I let each of them know how important this business is to me and to my husband. They represent my business. I tell them I hope they will be a direct reflection of the things I think are important to the clinic’s success — great customer service, quality patient care, strong caregiver education as needed and the art of listening.”
Being a full time military wife and mother to Kyler, a freshman at MSU, and Sarah, age 10, is a job in itself — so how has Rendon managed being a small business owner, too?
“I’ve learned I do great work under pressure,” Rendon said. “I’m a great multi-tasker, and often make fun of myself for folding laundry, chewing gum, checking homework, talking on the phone and trying to get something ready for dinner all at the same time. It’s a great skill but I need to remind myself to stop and be present in the moment. One thing at a time.”
Above all, though, Rendon said she couldn’t have done any of it without the love and help of her family.
“I am very independent and hate to ask for help,” Rendon said. “I have had to learn to ask for help with the children, the house, the business –– and my family has been amazing. They have helped take care of sick children, given business advice, offered a shoulder to lean on, hot meals when I don’t have the time or energy to cook and an ear when I need to talk. What more could a girl need?”