Former Transplant Patient Teaches Free Tai Chi Classes for Fellow Transplant Patients

Published On 03/17/2011

Richard Link steps to the head of the class and begins a series of slow, deliberate movements including “Waving Hands in the Clouds” and “Stroking the Bird’s Tail.” Link teaches free Tai Chi classes designed specifically for pre-and post-transplant patients and their support person. The class is held twice a week on the campus of Methodist University Hospital.

“Coming to these classes has really helped me with my balance and strength, particularly in the legs,” said Bill Palmer. He says the classes are good because even if you are limited in your movement you can still do the different positions.

Many people with a number of health issues turn to Tai Chi. This ancient Chinese martial arts form has evolved into a gentle, physical exercise connecting the mind and body. The body is in constant motion flowing from one form to the next.

Palmer was placed on the transplant list in August 2010. That’s when he learned about the Tai Chi class Link teaches and wanted to learn more. Palmer started coming to the classes with his wife before he had his liver transplant. He now comes regularly to the classes since he had his transplant this past December at the Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute. The MUH Transplant Institute in partnership with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is nationally recognized for its success with kidney, liver, kidney-pancreas and pancreas transplants.

Link, who teaches the class, is a retired Senior Master Sergeant USAF. He has been training in Taekwondo for nine years and is a martial arts instructor. He is certified to teach Tai Chi for Beginners, Tai Chi for Arthritis, and Tai Chi for Diabetes. Link is also a former transplant patient. He received a new kidney 10 years ago and learned firsthand the importance of a good exercise program to increase strength, stamina, and achieve overall good health.

“After the transplant, I was pretty weak, out of shape, and overweight,” said Link. “I wanted to get my energy back. It was tough just to walk to the mailbox and do the simplest chores.”

He became interested in the slow, gentle form of Tai Chi and thought it would be perfect for transplant patients to help build up their strength and stamina.

“I have been very blessed to be able to have great health with only a few medical challenges. I have received the best care that anyone could possibly have from both the UT and Methodist transplant staff,” said Link. “Because of that care, I wanted to find a way to give something back. By offering free Tai Chi classes to transplant patients and their support person, I have found a way to help other transplant patients.”

Palmer says he can’t stress enough the importance of taking Tai Chi before and after transplant surgery. “Tai Chi really increased my strength. I was up and walking with a walker and a little assistance two days after surgery, and I was still in ICU.”

For more information about free Tai Chi classes for transplant patients and their support person contact Richard Link at 901-581-8456 or