Portrait: Greg the AVM Superhero
Greg Graham suffered a hemorrhagic stroke while driving his work truck in Kentucky. A year into recovery, he found a new purpose and a new superpower.
A little bit about Greg
On November 27, 2017, Greg Graham suffered a hemorrhagic stroke while driving his work truck in Kentucky, 300 miles away from where he lived with his then-wife and two daughters in Atlanta, Georgia. The stroke was caused by an unbeknown Arteriovenous Malformation, also known as an AVM. The AVM ruptured in his cerebellum and left him with the following ailments: Dysphagia, Pneumonia, Hydrocephalus, mobility issues, and cognitive issues.
After two months of arduous recovery with speech, occupational, and physical therapies, Greg left the hospital just well enough for his family to pick him up for their six-hour drive back home to Atlanta, Georgia.
Why Greg is the AVM Superhero
A year later, Greg was in a significant stage of depression. He separated from his wife of eighteen years and couldn't earn a living. Greg was feeling inadequate as a man, a father, and a member of society. Then, one day, he received a phone call from his friend, Talvin. Talvin just became a caregiver for his mother that suffered a stroke. Talvin and his mother were at their wits' end with their new lives. Talvin's mother lacked the confidence to do daily activities, such as going to the bathroom, going upstairs, and cooking a meal. Talvin knew she was physically capable but didn't know how to motivate her. Talvin told Greg that he was frustrated and didn't know how to help his Mom. The frustration was so much for him. He felt ill and decided to visit his doctor for a check-up. Talvin's doctor took his blood pressure and said, "Your blood pressure is extremely high, and if you don't fix it, you will die!"
When Greg heard this, he remembered what it was like to be a new stroke survivor and how frustrating it was for him and his family. So Greg thought, "If I could talk with Talvin's mom and she could see all the stuff that I can do, maybe she would be inspired to do the same." So Greg asked Talvin to speak with his mother. Talvin asked his Mom if she wanted to converse with Greg, and she replied, "YES."
Greg went to Talvin's house to have a conversation with Talvin's mom face-to-face. During the discussion, Talvin's Mom asked Greg, "Did you drive here? And can you cook a meal?" Greg answered "Yes" to both questions. After the face-to-face conversation, she told Talvin, "I can go to the bathroom by myself, and I am going to walk again." The next day, Talvin called Greg to tell him the great news that his Mom was active again, which immediately helped his blood pressure to go down.
It was then that Greg noticed his gift to help survivors and their caregivers, and he started his monthly caregivers' basket lottery. Once a month, Greg gives out a basket to caregivers to encourage them to feel appreciated and a part of a large, supportive community. Since August 2020, Greg has given out one basket a month. Greg also started an Instagram series called "Death Taught Us How to Live," where he speaks with survivors about how they regained their will to live after a life-altering health event, and thus the AVM Superhero was born.