Plano Fire Chief Makes Good on Tradition Following COVID-19 Illness

Sam Greif, 57, spent more than two weeks in the hospital fighting COVID-19

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The fire chief in Plano is back on the job after beating COVID-19, and he did something good to celebrate his return.

"I was at home recovering and still on oxygen, and I told Rosemary when I get well, I'm taking ice cream to all the guys," said Sam Greif.

And he did just that. Chief Greif and his wife Rosemary delivered ice cream to all 13 fire stations to make good on a tradition that when Plano firefighters get on TV, they treat the others to ice cream.

Greif was on TV all over the country last month when he left Medical City Plano after more than two weeks fighting COVID-19 there.

"The real story should be, '57-year-old man went to the hospital with COVID, a very serious health condition, and angels dressed in scrubs delivered not just world-class health care, but they became your surrogate family,'" Greif told NBC 5 a couple of days after his release.

As Greif gained strength and shared his ice cream idea with his wife, "Mrs. Chief," as she's called, got busy trying to find out where she could get 44 half gallons of Blue Bell Ice Cream. Yes, it had to be Blue Bell per Plano Fire Department tradition.

"Every department has its culture," Greif smiled.

Rosemary Greif's calls led to a Blue Bell store in McKinney where she not only got all the ice cream needed but found out the creamery had donated every half-gallon to the firefighters.

Once coolers were found for all the ice cream, the Greifs made their way to all 13 fire stations for the special delivery.

"It was really a fun day. It was my first chance in a long time, two months actually, to get out and visit with my people," the fire chief said.

"Last week was my first full week at work. went great, energy level is good. Just gettin' to see everybody, just gettin' back in the swing of things, make stations and enjoy being with them as much as I can," Greif said as he talked about the long journey from illness to continued recovery.

"Health is doing really well. I'm still down about 11 or 12 pounds of what I was before I got sick. To put that in perspective, I was down 22 pounds to start with and I've gotten half of it back. Energy level is getting better, starting to do some light exercising. So, it's going well."

The chief and his wife were both sick with COVID-19 at the same time. Rosemary Greif fought the illness at home, while her husband needed to be in the hospital.

"Me. personally, yeah, it's scary because you don't know the outcome," Greif said.

He remembers the day he left home in an ambulance but doesn't remember much of the first week because he was so sick.

"When my memory came back, I had a full beard and eight days had gone by," Greif said. "So, that second week is where I really remember it, feeling really sick and really weak. You're blessed you're still there yet missing home, wanting to be home.

Greif was on oxygen 24/7 once he got home and struggled to do everyday things, like a shave and shower.

"I could not have done it without Rosemary physically helping me in the beginning. Something as simple as taking a shower, you pre-planned it. It was an event to take a shower or go shave. I got a stool in front of my vanity to shave because I didn't have the strength to stand up," Greif said.

Greif calls it "a journey" and there are many more days to do as he continues to recover and gain strength. And he's a firm believer in still wearing a mask and getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Sign up for vaccination. Sign up. and when it's your turn, go get vaccinated," he said.

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