‘Mrs. MacGyver’ to the rescue

Glenn Drawdy is the kind of computer company executive who, after suffering a stroke that left him partially paralyzed on his right side, conducts business meetings on his cellphone from Valley Hospital Medical Center’s intensive care unit.

You know, just your normal, unforgettable, driven-personality sort of guy, an upbeat Southerner who’ll see some clouds in the sky and say it’s partly sunny, never partly cloudy.

He’s from Georgia, with the drawl to prove it. Vice president of engineering and service delivery for InfoSystems Inc., which provides information technology solutions for small and medium-size businesses, he came to Las Vegas about a month ago for a conference and still hasn’t been able to leave.

“I only get so many cellphone minutes at a time now,” the 53-year-old executive says behind a sheepish grin that turns to laughter as he sits in a chair in his hospital room. “I didn’t quit working like my boss told me to, so he called my wife and had her take my phone away. But sometimes I still get cellphone privileges.”

He doesn’t need a cellphone for the kind of work he’s been doing daily since June 10 — physical and occupational therapy designed to bring back as much mobility and function as possible.

Though his occupational therapist is named Nicola Gregory, he refers to her as “Mrs. MacGyver” because she frequently goes to places like Hobby Lobby and Lowe’s Home Improvement to buy materials that she can turn into devices to help his rehabilitation.

(Between 1985 and 1992, ABC TV had a ratings success with a show called “MacGyver,” a series that revolved around Angus MacGyver, a secret agent whose main asset was his practical application of scientific knowledge and inventive use of common items, along with his ever present Swiss Army knife.)

“Nicola is just like MacGyver,” Drawdy says as he used both hands and arms to push forward on what appears to be a large picture frame without the picture. “You never know what she’s going to come up with. I never dreamed they did this kind of thing in a hospital. I thought everything was standard.”

His right foot pushes down on the bottom of the frame, which is actually PVC plumbing pipe Gregory purchased at Lowe’s. Sometimes she puts weights on the contraption. Sometimes she connects it to Drawdy with a band for more resistance as he pushes it out.

At Lowe’s she also purchased a rain gutter that she connects to his arm with bands and makes him lift it.

“I couldn’t believe she found rain gutters in the desert,” Drawdy says. “I never thought I’d be lifting a rain gutter like this.”

A foam board Gregory purchased at Hobby Lobby is fastened like a splint to Drawdy’s right hand with straps. The board allows him to do exercises that force him to use his wrist and fingers.

“This stuff really helps,” Drawdy says. “It keeps my fingers from curling up.”

“Because he works so hard he’s coming back faster than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Gregory says as she watches Drawdy move his wrist. “You really have to customize your devices, because every stroke victim is different; different muscles have problems that you need to focus on.”

The therapeutic approach she is using, Gregory explains, is known as Neuro-IFRAH, which focuses on restoring what is missing, not teaching someone to compensate for what is lost by overusing their other side.

What has helped Drawdy, Gregory says, is that his stroke — a blood clot that blocked blood flow in his brain stem — did not affect his cognitive ability.

“He’s still quick to understand,” she says.

Shawna Drawdy, Glenn’s high school sweetheart and his wife of 30 years, says both she and her husband want to stay positive during a time that sees many patients become withdrawn, irritable and depressed.

“We want this rehab time to be productive; time is what you make it,” she says.

Shawna Drawdy says that if Glenn was going to have a stroke, it may have been a blessing that he had it away from home.

“It’s not that I like sleeping in here,” she says, motioning to a little ledge area with a mattress. “But if we were at home, he’d probably have all kinds of distractions with work and people wishing him well. Here he’s just concentrating on getting well. It’s what you do in the early days after a stroke that are most important.”

The Drawdys celebrated their 30th anniversary recently in what they laughingly call “a corner suite” on Valley’s fourth floor — a room that will never be mistaken for the Palazzo, where he was staying during the conference. Of course, they can also point out that you get to see more ambulances out your window at their “Valley Hotel.”

Glenn Drawdy also notes that their Valley room on their anniversary night “was probably more expensive” than anything on the Strip. … I’m glad Blue Cross-Blue Shield is paying for it.”

Smiling, Shawna says, “We even have a wet bar,” which is really a plain white sink near the hospital bed where doctors and nurses wash their hands.

To this day, Glenn Drawdy believes he actually had his stroke as he slept during the early morning hours of June 10.

“I woke up and the lights were moving in my room,” he recalls.

As the day wore on, he felt nauseous in meetings. Finally, an EMT at the hotel suggested he go to the hospital.

Drawdy says there’s one exercise that “Mrs. MacGyver made me do” that he’ll never forget.

“She had me on all fours, and then I’d have to pick up something with one hand,” he remembers. “It was a good way for me to increase strength in my right arm. Guess what I picked up in my left hand as I held myself up with my right? Poker chips. Now that’s an occupational therapist who works in Las Vegas.”

Contact Paul Harasim at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2908.

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