Hemorrhagic stroke treatment aided by positivity and perseverance

After suffering a major stroke, Jeff Greve never gave up and never lost his positive outlook on life.
June 22nd, 2020
Jeff with a t-shirt that says I'm a stroke survivor, what's your superpower.
Jeff Greve is a stroke survivor who’s never taken “no” for an answer when it comes to his recovery. Photo courtesy of Jeff Greve.

If you are ever feeling down about life, try spending time with Jeff Greve.

The stroke two and a half years ago robbed Jeff of some of his physical function but not his spirit. Greve is the kind of person who makes a lasting impression, according to the medical team that cared for him. After his rehabilitation was completed, his physical and occupational therapists often join Greve for Sunday runs. He often returns to the hospital, not for care, but to help in the care of others.

“I was down at first (after my stroke) and I know others are too,” said the now 60-year-old Greve. “But I want to transfer that positivity to people. That’s what it takes. That’s what it took for me.”

When a hemorrhagic stroke occurs

Greve, who shares a home with Kyle, his 25-year-old grandson, was in an upstairs bathroom when he collapsed to the floor on Jan. 28, 2018.

“I remember wondering, ‘Why did that happen?’ And I tried to get up, but I couldn’t,” he said. “My mind was super coherent, and I could tell I was having a stroke, but Kyle said I was mumbling.”

A stroke is a “brain attack,” said Leigh Creighton, coordinator of the UCHealth Stroke Program in northern Colorado.

“A stroke happens when a blood vessel either gets blocked or breaks open. Surrounding brain tissue begins to die because it cannot get the oxygen and nutrients it needs,” she said. “Brain cells start to die within minutes. Because brain tissue is rapidly damaged as a stroke progresses, the sooner you get help the better the chances your brain will recover.”

Be informed about strokes, risk factors and the signs.

Kyle called 911 and UCHealth EMS arrived within three minutes, Greve said. “It was an amazing start to everything.”

Because “time is brain,” UCHealth EMS is specially trained to recognize and care for patients with stroke symptoms.

“Even before the patient arrives at the hospital, EMS is communicating with the team in the emergency room,” Creighton said. “When the patient arrives, the stroke team is immediately ready to quickly assess, diagnose and provide eligible patients with time-sensitive treatment.”

“I remember being whisked away,” Greve said. “In my mind I remember clearly being wheeled in the gurney and seeing the hospital, but after that it is a blur.”

Jeff with his grandkids, all wearing race numbers.
Jeff Greve with his family at ChildSafe’s annual Be a Hero 5K. Photo courtesy of Jeff Greve.

Two types of strokes

There are two kinds of strokes: hemorrhagic, when a blood vessel bursts, or ischemic, when a blood vessel is blocked. In the latter, patients can receive a drug, such as tPA, that can help break up the blood clot causing the stroke. It needs to be delivered by IV within three hours of symptoms. That’s why calling 911 as soon as you recognize symptoms is so important, Creighton said.

Jeff with his wife and grandchildren in the hospital during his hemorrhagic stroke treatment.
Jeff Greve at UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies after his stroke, with his family (and biggest supporters) by his side. Photo courtesy of Jeff Greve.

Ischemic strokes account for about 85% of cases, said Dawn Eeten, physician assistant at UCHealth Neurology Clinic – Fort Collins. But Greve experienced a massive bleed (hemorrhagic), most likely caused by his high blood pressure.

Hemorrhagic strokes are treated differently than ischemic strokes — “Rapid treatment, like tPA for ischemic strokes, cannot be used. Instead, the treatment involves careful monitoring and control of pressure within the skull over time. Supportive care and control of blood pressure is also critical.” Eeten said.

“With a hemorrhagic stroke, we are looking at and responding to the growing size of the bleed and the swelling, which can push on other areas of the brain,” she explained. “The first 48 hours of treatment is important, and the severity of symptoms can change a lot depending not only on the size and location of the bleed, but on the swelling and pressure.”

Greve was transferred from UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital to UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies in case he needed neurosurgery.

After several days on the intensive care unit, Greve moved onto the neurology care unit, and a week after his stroke, he began inpatient rehabilitation.

therapist at UCHealth hospital helping Jeff step up as part of his hemorrhagic stroke treatment.
UCHealth rehab therapist Sarah Wild helps Jeff as part of his hemorrhagic stroke treatment. Photo courtesy of Jeff Greve.

Working toward normalcy after a hemorrhagic stroke

Greve struggled with his new reality. He didn’t want to believe that the right side of his body no longer followed his commands. But he slowly began to fall into a routine at the hospital with rehabilitation.

“I’ve always had a positive attitude, but Sarah Wild seized on it and got it going again,” Greve said.

Wild, an acute rehab therapist, worked regularly with Greve.

It was hard going, but Greve knew he couldn’t give up.

“Although my right side didn’t work, I knew I did not want to be confined to a wheelchair,” he said. “When I finally could walk, I felt like Rocky. I was really slow and awkward, but I felt like Rocky.”

Greve moved through his recovery and in the hospital’s gym, he practiced different challenges he might face at home, such as stairs, opening car doors, and getting in and out of the shower.

“Jeff would often say or give me a look like, ‘You want me to do what?’ when I would challenge him with a new task,” Wild recalled. “But he always worked very hard.”

three people stand with their thumbs up inside Jeff's home as a sign that his home is safe to return to after Jeff's hemorrhagic stroke treatment
From left, Lesli and Jeff Greve, and UCHealth therapist Sarah Wild, giving a thumbs up to Jeff’s home inspection, which is done to make sure the home is safe and that Jeff can have a successful recovery after his hemorrhagic stroke treatment at UCHealth. Photo courtesy of Jeff Greve.

When Greve was ready to go home, Wild assessed his living quarters, making sure everything was safe and that he’d have a successful transition.

Returning home after a hemorrhagic stroke

Before his stroke, Greve had been doing a few half-marathons and though he didn’t compete enough “to be good at it,” he said, it was something he really enjoyed — and he wasn’t willing to give it up.

The summer after he got out of the hospital, he began walking with his trekking poles for balance and eventually worked his way up to traversing miles at a time. But he still felt he had limitations imposed on him by his stroke that he needed to address, including a pain that would shoot up his right side.

Neuropathic pain is caused by damage to the brain’s pain-processing pathways. For Greve, the stroke reduced his sensations. When the brain is used to receiving normal sensory inputs and then doesn’t, it produces painful sensations. He was told it may never go away.

“I was OK with that too. That’s the main thing to remember: Everything that happens is not the end of the world,” he said. “I was mad because I couldn’t do anything, but I went back to PT and OT to see what I could do.”

Jeff with his two therapists, who helped him with his hemorrhagic stroke treatment, after a Sunday run
Jeff Greve and his UCHealth rehab therapists Sarah Leeneman, left, and Christine Heess (before the coronavirus pandemic) after a Sunday run. Photo courtesy of Jeff Greve.

There, he began working with UCHealth physical therapist Sarah Lenneman and occupational therapist Christine Heess.

Seeking more therapy after hemorrhagic stroke treatment

“Jeff was so motivated to get better,” Lenneman said.

running app photo shows Jeff Greve's route after a Sunday run with his therapists.
He started slow with trek poles, but now Jeff Greve has recovered enough from his hemorrhagic stroke to cover some distance. Photo courtesy of Jeff Greve.

With his body weight supported by a lift, Lenneman had Greve moving on a treadmill to smooth out his movements when he walked. By making the body move in a normal way again, it helped alleviate his pain. She had to break Greve from his pattern of movement caused by the stroke and teach him safer ways to move.

The two therapists created a home exercise plan and therapy tasks to work on, which Greve would do alongside his 5-year-old grandson, who playfully challenged him in the driveway to see who could do the tasks with better form and balance.

“Greve is a joy to be around,” Lenneman said. “If you look at the whole span of his recovery, he’s never lost hope. He’s always had a positive attitude.”

After working with the therapy team for several months, Lenneman and Heess had reached a point where they’d given Greve all the tools they could — he was ready to graduate from outpatient therapy.

“We asked him what he wanted to do on his last day and he said he wanted to run two miles. So that is what we did, and he did great,” Lenneman said.

Never giving up, years after a hemorrhagic stroke

But it didn’t stop there; the trio decided they enjoyed running together.

Every Sunday there was a standing invitation for the therapists to join Greve on his run. The recent pandemic halted their get-togethers for a while, but they’ve started up again, keeping physical distance but still motivating each other to stay active.

“Patients usually see their biggest improvement soon after their stroke and then taper off,” Lenneman said. “But Jeff didn’t take no for an answer, and it just shows what the brain and body and do. That it can still make progress.

“Jeff always chooses these great runs, and he always notices the wonderful things in the world — he’s so gracious. It’s his perseverance that’s taken him so far.”

“And his positive outlook and love for life,” Heess added.

Jeff crossing the finishline of a 10K, two years after his hemorrhagic stroke treatment.
Two years after his hemorrhagic stroke treatment and recovery, Jeff Greve finished the Winter Sun run 10K in Moab, Utah. Photo courtesy of Jeff Greve.

Two years after his stroke, Greve finished the Winter Sun run 10K in Moab, Utah. It was a race he’d done many times before his stroke. It was an achievement he’ll admit he wasn’t sure he’d accomplish, but credits the support of his family and UCHealth in his success.

“It’s because of all the people that helped me out — they all helped me get better. I truly believe that I wouldn’t have progressed as well or be able to be where I am today without every single person at UCHealth that was part of my recovery,” he said. “They brought positivity to everything I did and that made me want to move forward.”

The feeling is reciprocal, according to his health care team.

“It is such a joy to see Mr. Greve in follow-up at our neurology clinics,” Eeten said. “He is an inspiration to our team.”

Returning the favor

Two years after his stroke, Greve decided he wanted to give back and joined SSTAR, Stroke Survivors Taking Aim at Recovery.

Through the volunteer program, Greve meets one-on-one with stroke patients and their families. Because of COVID-19, volunteer programs are currently suspended, but Greve looks forward to getting back to helping once restrictions are lifted.

“I miss it a lot — the volunteering — because every person was different, every story is different, every stroke is different. How they would recuperate, and how they would recover, you listen to what they have to say and you let them talk about it if they want,” Greve said.

“They are still them. They are still that person they were before,” he continued. “There may be a new normal, but I personally have seen so much more good in the world since my stroke compared to what I grumbled about before.”

Jeff with a t-shirt that says I'm a stroke survivor, what's your superpower. Jeff received hemorrhagic stroke treatment at UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies.
Jeff Greve is a survivor whose positive attitude and perseverance has helped in his hemorrhagic stroke treatment and recovery. Photo courtesy of Jeff Greve.

About the author

Kati Blocker has always been driven to learn and explore the world around her. And every day, as a writer for UCHealth, Kati meets inspiring people, learns about life-saving technology, and gets to know the amazing people who are saving lives each day. Even better, she gets to share their stories with the world.

As a journalism major at the University of Wyoming, Kati wrote for her college newspaper. She also studied abroad in Swansea, Wales, while simultaneously writing for a Colorado metaphysical newspaper.

After college, Kati was a reporter for the Montrose Daily Press and the Telluride Watch, covering education and health care in rural Colorado, as well as city news and business.

When she's not writing, Kati is creating her own stories with her husband Joel and their two young children.