Gerry Anderson and his physiotherapist Dale Graham try out the donor-funded NeuroGym bungee mobility trainer at North Island Hospital Comox Valley’s Rehabilitation Therapy.


One Saturday morning in July, Gerry Anderson was enjoying coffee with his family when he suddenly found himself feeling dizzy and unable to stand. When he tried to speak out, his voice was strange. Gerry immediately realized he was having a stroke.

By 10 am he was in Emergency at St. Joseph’s and getting CT scans.

“It was clear I had a stroke, but they didn’t know the cause, or whether it was from a bleed,” Gerry said. “They couldn’t figure out where it was, so they decided to give me the usual treatment for stroke, and they put me in Intensive Care. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t use my arm, couldn’t talk very well and I couldn’t swallow.”

Gerry’s left side of his body was left paralyzed from the stroke. When you’re a left-handed handyman like Gerry, that was devastating and frightening, but thankfully physiotherapist Dale Graham came to ICU to work with Gerry immediately.

“I didn’t think my leg would work, but Dale was encouraging me to think about making my leg work,” he said. “It was very encouraging, the celebrations of the little things and insistence that we work on it. It worked. And that is what this group does.”

Gerry spent 16 days at St. Joseph’s before he was transferred to the Rehabilitation Ward in Nanaimo for two weeks to take his recovery further. By the August long weekend he was independent enough to go home to continue his rehabilitation with the physiotherapists and occupational therapists (OT) at St. Joseph’s, and now at the new hospital.

“I’ve made a lot of progress in the months we’ve had,” he said. “I don’t feel we’re done, I’ve got a lot of work to do, but I can function. I use walking poles as an alternative to a cane outside.”

“These people test and record your progress so they can say, ‘Here’s what you did 10 days ago; here’s where you’re at now.’ Meanwhile I was feeling nothing changed, so those are vital. They’re encouraging. When I think about what I can do now and what I couldn’t do even when I came home [from Nanaimo], I can see the results. I’m very appreciative.”

By late October Gerry was nearly done his physiotherapy with Dale and continues working on his fine motor skills with his Occupational Therapist Andree-Anne Trudel.

Although retired, Gerry’s main hobby of carpentry and renovating homes means his hands are his livelihood, so he’s thankful to the many teams in the hospital who are helping him get him his quality of life back.

“The personalized attention that I’ve received with grace has been really great,” he said with emotion. “I was surprised that this happened to me, of course, but I’m here, and I’m just very pleased and appreciative.”

“This whole situation has made me want to give the Foundation a gift as part of the campaign, and to show my gratitude.”

So Gerry became a Grateful Patient, donating to Rehabilitation Services to give back and thank the staff who have given so much to him.

In the summer, the Foundation purchased two innovative pieces of equipment for Rehab Services: a NeuroGym bungee mobility trainer and sit-to-stand trainer. Gerry was the first patient to get to try the bungee mobility trainer.

“The Foundation purchases items that we don’t have access to through regular funding, and that makes a difference to people’s recovery. So many hospital patients are here because of falls, or problems with balance or unsteadiness. We know we can improve balance with training, but only if the training is at the right level of challenge. If it is too easy, the patient doesn’t make gains, but if it is too hard, there is a risk they will fall during practice,” said physiotherapist Dale.

“Now our patients can practice walking, reaching, lunging, turning or even running while positioned in the NeuroGym Bungee Trainer. The trainer moves with them without getting in the way, but if they lose balance, the elastic recoil of the bungees catches them. Imagine the difference it makes to a patient to get the training they need to be able to return to safe, independent standing or walking, rather than needing assistance at all times.”

These two pieces of equipment have improved the Comox Valley’s rehabilitation therapy ahead remarkably, Graham said, and she’s thankful to donors, especially the Courtenay Legion’s major gift, to make it possible.

“The Bungee Trainer and Sit-to-Stand Trainer are the most recent examples of revolutionary advances in rehabilitation, moving our services ahead by leaps and bounds,” Dale said. “We get very accustomed to tiny incremental changes in our services, but it is a rare and very satisfying treat when we can suddenly make a big change in patient therapy and outcomes like this thanks to the Foundation’s help.”

Because of these innovative additions made possible by donations, Gerry is well on his way back to his handyman hobbies, and is very grateful this Christmas season for his recovery.

Please donate to CVHF this Christmas, because when you do … it changes everything.

To donate online click here, call (250) 331-5957 or mail your donation to: Comox Valley Healthcare Foundation, 101 Lerwick Road, Courtenay, BC V9N 0B9