'I refuse to give up on him': Fundraiser created to help Milwaukee firefighter who suffered multiple strokes

NOW: ’I refuse to give up on him’: Fundraiser created to help Milwaukee firefighter who suffered multiple strokes


MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A fundraiser has been created to help a man who was working as a Milwaukee firefighter when he suffered a stroke. 

Derek Geppert suffered a stroke back in 2016. 

"They got him back from the testing and the doctor was like 'I’m sorry, your husband’s having a stroke and there’s really nothing we can do about it,'" said Melissa Geppert, Derek's wife. 

After going back and forth to doctors and different appointments, they eventually went to the Mayo Clinic. 

"Mayo Clinic is where we got our answers, they found he has an autoimmune disorder that caused COPD caused vasculitis in his brain and the vasculitis in his brain is what’s causing these strokes," said Melissa. 

While at the Mayo Clinic, Melissa learned she had a serious health issue of her own.

"I had gone back to the hotel and I just was feeling under the weather. I felt like I was coming down with something, I had swollen glands, I was exhausted," she said. 

She went to the emergency room to get some fluids and had her blood drawn. 

"They had a whole team there ready for me and the doctor said 'I’m really sorry, but you have cancer.'"

Later that year, Derek suffered several more strokes. 

"That third or fourth stroke that month kind of knocked him into what I called a functional coma, he was able to get up and sit up and he would respond to very simple questions," said Melissa. 

Derek eventually got to go home and learned to walk again. 

"I have bad days, we both do, we have frustrations, doom and gloom some days, I don’t know anybody else that wouldn’t, but our good days and our positive outweigh that more than anything because we’ve really just learned to not take much for granted. We don’t have much left to take for granted," said Melissa. 

One thing that is giving them hope is a new therapy. It's a brain training that uses repetition and games. 

"I feel like this is going to be what cracks the case open," said Melissa. 

The therapy is not covered by insurance. To help with the costs, Ignite the Spirit, a non-profit that helps raises money for Milwaukee firefighters and their families facing hardships, created a t-shirt fundraiser. 

The t-shirt design was created by a firefighter. 

To order one, click here. 

If you'd like to donate to the family, head to Ignite the Spirit's website and write #GeppertStrong in the notes section of your PayPal donation.

"For me, I just want my partner back, I want the man that I married, that we used to dream about things and talk about the future and had plans," said Melissa, "I want that back." 

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