James Collins, owner of Pantops Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy, opened a new office at Lake Monticello on Sept. 20.

After serving Charlottesville and its surrounding counties for over 12 years, the physical therapist decided to expand into the Fluvanna community, setting up shop between the Lake and Sycamore Square beside KC’s Burgers.

Collins’ career in physical therapy shifted after meeting a patient he will never forget. Freshly certified, Collins had set out to surround himself with professional athletes, and happily took on the needs of Olympic figures, until a Harley-riding stroke patient came along.

“He had leather skin, a hoarse cigarette voice. He was intimidating,” Collins said. “He couldn’t walk, which meant he couldn’t stabilize on his bike.”

Seeing his gruff patient depend on strangers to help him sit up, wash and dress was difficult at first. “But his same attitude carried over to physical therapy. He worked hard at monotonous tasks,” Collins said.

Then one day Collins let go of his patient’s gait belt – a tool which allowed Collins to assist his patient with balancing while he walked. “I stood in front of him and he walked to me independently for the first time since the stroke,” he said. “He looked at me and said, ‘Oh my God, I’m walking.’ We both started crying.”

Patients with impressive flexibility, strength and stamina during physical therapy have consistently won Collins’ heart, he said. Another such patient is David Feigert. Physical therapy with Collins is “so much better than I thought it would be,” said Feigert, 87. “I would scream to the heavens the quality of this operation.”

Feigert admitted that when he first began therapy he wasn’t sure what to expect, wondering if he’d meet “muscle-bound idiots” and “a bunch of people who don’t communicate.” Instead, he said, he met a core staff who “couldn’t be nicer people” and who help him stay “very motivated.”

Collins hopes to impress on Fluvanna residents the importance of staying active, especially as a young person.

“You can tell who was active as a teenager and young adult by the way they carry themselves,” he said. People who choose more sedentary lifestyles will see their balance become more difficult, steps slow, and will need support to sit and stand earlier in life than those who stay active, he said. “Age 35 to 60 is the most important time to be active,” said Collins. But, he noted, it is never too late to get started.

Collins said he plans to donate 50 percent of patient copay costs to Lake Monticello Fire and Rescue.

To learn more about Collins, his staff, or their programs and services, visit pantopsphysicaltherapy.com or call 434-245-6472.