Plano Fire Chief Sam Greif spoke from his hospital bed Tuesday as he fights COVID-19 to thank members of the community for their support but to also urge everyone who can to get the vaccine.
Greif has been in the hospital for almost two weeks and he has pneumonia in both lungs.
Greif has no underlying medical conditions and was taking all the precautions to prevent it, but said he still “went downhill really fast” by the time he got to the hospital on Jan. 3.
He said he can hear the activity in the hospital of other COVID-19 patients. Two of his friends recently died of COVID-19, Greif said. The side effects of the vaccine are minimal compared to what the disease can do to you, he said.
“When offered the vaccine, I beg you to take the vaccine,” Greif said. “Don't get caught up in the ‘They rushed it to market, I don’t know what’s in it.’ It’s 95% effective.”
Greif said he is getting the best care anyone could hope for and the hospital is full of good people. He’s hooked up to a special breathing machine and on medicine cocktails.
“This is not a hoax. This is not about politics,” Greif said. “This is real. It’s very dangerous. Please, please get the vaccine.”
He misses his wife of 25 years the most. He said they would go everywhere together so isolation has been difficult.
“It’s the stuff that haunts you,” Greif said. "I remember getting in the back of the ambulance and she was crying her eyes out. I was, too. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Greif is getting better and expects to get out of the hospital soon. When he first came in, the doctor told him his lungs looked “like they had been in a bar fight and lost.” His lungs filled up with fluid very fast.
“I don’t want anybody to wind up here with the feeling of drowning of your own fluid, not sure if you'll be a statistic or a lucky one,” Greif said. “I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m gonna hold my grandbabies. I’m gonna hug my son and I’m gonna hold my wife.”
“I feel horrible for all those people who aren't going to get to say that. For all those people who thought this was nothing.”
He recently got to see his wife through a hospital window. He has two granddaughters and a son who he is ready to get back to.
Greif is ready to return to his post as chief, but he said he will probably have to stay home for a few weeks so he can give his lungs time to heal.
“I’m so grateful to so many people and for so many prayers,” Greif said. “It’s a debt I can never be able to repay.”
He said he wants people to get back to caring for one another and to focus on achieving over the worldwide enemy: COVID-19.
“Is it really that hard of an imposition to say ‘I’m gonna wear a mask?’” Greif said. “We wore a mask in 1918 and 1919 [for the Spanish flu.] This too shall pass. We’re America. I don’t think that’s too much to do for your fellow man.”
He spoke directly to any fire rescue personnel, city employees, elected officials:
"I want to say hi to any of my Plano Fire-Rescue personnel who are listening and all city employees, Plano people, the city manager and elected officials and everybody who has called to check on me. I love all of you guys and I look forward to being back in uniform soon and being able to serve the community."