Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

COVID-19 survivor recounts fight against paralyzing bout of GBS

February 23, 2021

On Nov. 23, Greg Schroeter was 10 days into quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure when his luck ran out. While trimming bushes around his acreage near Humphrey, Nebraska, Greg noticed an annoying tingling and numbness in his feet. The sensation intensified and within 24 hours, the formerly active 51-year-old couldn’t walk.

Doctors at Methodist Hospital in Omaha diagnosed Greg with Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a rare neurological disorder in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks part of its peripheral nervous system. In Greg’s case, GBS flared from his exposure to the coronavirus and attacked his spinal cord causing paralysis.

In the intensive care unit, Greg fought pneumonia and relied on a Bi-PAP machine to push air into his compromised lungs. Totally dependent on others for his care, the husband and father of two adult children felt helpless. His immune-compromised body also developed a painful pancreatic cyst requiring surgery. “You feel like the world is crashing in on you,” Greg said.

To his wife, Kim, a registered nurse, watching her “best friend and soulmate” in pain was heart-wrenching. “Greg fought hard, he was never on a vent and I’m grateful for that.”

Greg’s Lincoln Campus care team created an aggressive plan to help him meet his primary goal to walk again.  On Jan. 11, just three days after arrival, Greg stood with help from his physical therapist. After shedding tears of joy, Greg decided to make every therapy session a competition. “Whatever they asked me to do, I was determined to beat my previous goal.”

His family created a private group, Schroerterville, where Greg proudly posted videos and photos of every milestone.

Since the pandemic began last year, Madonna staff in Lincoln and Omaha have treated 105 patients recovering from complications due to COVID-19, many with severe side effects. "They may be on a ventilator and they are very deconditioned to all the other side effects that can affect the organ systems such as respiratory, cardiac, GI, the immune system,” said Dr. Paul Krabbenhoft, spinal cord injury program director.

Each patient’s individualized care program is directed by a staff physiatrist with input from the interdisciplinary team. Greg was under the care of the spinal cord injury rehabilitation team due to his paralysis from GBS.

Specialized technology, the expertise and encouragement of staff, along with huge community support helped Greg meet his goals. Wearing his blue Schoerter Strong-GBS Warrior T-shirt, Greg walked out of Madonna’s front doors Feb. 19. Beating his original discharge date by two weeks was bittersweet. “These people have been my family.”

Greg continues healing in outpatient therapy near his hometown with plans to return to his fulfilling job at Strobel Energy Group.

His victory over COVID-19 and GBS is both rewarding and humbling. “It’s changed me forever; this proves to me there is a God."

To see KETV coverage of Greg’s complicated health care battle and how his care team helped get him back on his feet, click here.

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