Seneca Trail Physical Therapy has opened a branch office in Green Bank and Ben Rittenhouse is there to see patients on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The practice is located in the the late Dr. Roland Sharp’s office across from ParMar. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer
 
When it came time for business partners Kevin Workman, Jamie Burke and Bob Haas to expand their business – Seneca Trail Physical Therapy – Green Bank was one of the most logical places to consider.

The plan solidified when the former office of Dr. Roland Sharp and Dr. John Sharp became available – and the pieces of the puzzle naturally fit together.

 Now, physical therapist Ben Rittenhouse – who grew up in Green Bank – operates the clinic on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while maintaining his work at the Marlinton office on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays.

“One of the things that really helped move this along was when this building became available,” Rittenhouse said. “They just realized it would be a great spot. I think it’s neat – the history here, too. It seems like every person who comes through the door has a history with Doc Sharp and Dr. Roland Sharp.”

There has already been a great response from residents in the northern end of the county who appreciate the shortened travel time.

“It’s actually been an awesome response, which has been fun,” Rittenhouse said. “It seems daily, everybody is saying, ‘Thank you so much.’ I have patients who are driving forty-five minutes to an hour from the upper end to come to Marlinton, so for them, this is a game changer. If you’re driving an hour, say therapy is roughly an hour and then an hour home – that’s a three hour chunk of your day. I think people are really appreciative, and it’s been good.”

Rittenhouse is able to offer the same services as the main office in Marlinton and enjoys the variety that each day brings.

“The out-patient setting in Pocahontas County is kind of unique, and I love it,” he said. “It wasn’t long ago, in the Marlinton office, I had a two-year-old and a ninety-four-year-old, back-to-back. That really kind of encompasses what an out-patient physical therapist does in a rural area. You see a little bit of everything.”

 Another unique aspect of the job is the close relationship with the school system and its athletes. Rittenhouse said Workman was determined to offer support to the athletes and make sure they stay safe and in peak condition.

“Kevin started this years ago – saying let’s try to help our athletes,” Rittenhouse said. “You go to places where the high schools have athletic trainers and medical staff, and that’s something we don’t have here. Jessica [Shinaberry] does a wonderful job with the football team, but outside of that – it’s easy to get banged up and get nicks and dings playing sports – so Kevin has done a good job of saying, ‘let’s try to help them out and get them back to going.

“That’s just something we do,” he added. “We say, ‘let’s get you in, get you some treatment and get you back out there.’ [Kevin’s] really been generous in the way he’s treated athletes over the years. It’s been fun to hop in on that and to be able to give back in that way, too.”

It helps that Rittenhouse’s brother, Abe, is a track coach at Pocahontas County High School and keeps a close eye on the athletes who might need physical therapy.

“Yeah, sometimes he’d ‘beat’ people up, and I try to get them back on the go,” Rittenhouse said, laughing. “He would always give me a hard time if I’d say, ‘hey, this person needs to take it easy for a couple of days.’”

Rittenhouse first worked with Workman through the mentorship program when he was a senior at Pocahontas County High School, and that was when he realized physical therapy was the right field for him.

“I did some observation and mentoring out of the Marlinton office when I was in high school, and that’s when I first got to know Kevin and Jamie and Bob,” he said. “From there, that really grew. It was one of those things – the more I got into it – the more I said, ‘yeah, this is what I want to do.’”

Rittenhouse saw the benefits of physical therapy first-hand and witnessed how family, friends and neighbors were able to heal and get back to a normal life after treatment.

After becoming a physical therapist, Rittenhouse lived in several places, including North Carolina, but heard the call of the mountains and returned to Pocahontas County with his wife, Shannon, to raise a family and make a living.

“Not that I was against it, but I didn’t necessarily have a plan to come back,” he said. “I was gone for seven or eight years and got to live in other places, and realized that Pocahontas County was a pretty special place. So whenever my wife and I started thinking about where we wanted to live and raise a family, it was a pretty easy decision. 

“The people here make it a special place,” Rittenhouse said. “We were in North Carolina for a while, and you would treat somebody and they would walk out the door, and you’d think ‘we got to develop a cool relationship, and I’m never going to see them again.’ Here, it’s fun to be able to work on neighbors, friends and people in the community. That, to me, brings a lot of joy to what we do.”

Most of Rittenhouse’s patients are referred to physical therapy by their primary care physicians. He suggests that anyone in need of physical therapy should begin the process with their primary care physician, before contacting Seneca Trail. 

“If people are thinking, ‘hey, I’ve got something going on,’ wondering if therapy could help, they definitely need to talk to their primary care physician on that,” he said. “They could give us a call, and we can help talk them through some of that, too, but it definitely works best to go through their primary care and keep them in the loop.”

Rittenhouse is enthusiastic about the new office and is happy to have a place in the northern part of the county to see patients. His only concern is that they won’t recognize the phone number as being in Green Bank.

“The are code is 681,” he said, laughing. “One of the hardest parts for me to get used to is the new phone number.

“It’s been a fun adventure,” Rittenhouse said of the new office. “It’s been just a great response and things are good.”

Open Tuesdays and Thursdays, the Green Bank office number is 681-206-7107. 

The Marlinton office is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and the number is 304-799-4500.

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