Boston police captain thankful after surviving COVID-19: ‘I will never look at a person who wears scrubs in the same way’


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When Boston police Captain John Greland left his Hanover home via ambulance on April 2, he was certain he would not return.
“I thought I was going to die,” the 64-year-old said Sunday. “I firmly believed that when I got there I was dying and I was not going to walk out of that hospital.”
Greland spent eight days at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth fighting double pneumonia and COVID-19. He was discharged Friday.
Greland is one of 65 Boston police officers who have tested positive for COVID-19. Nine civilians who work at the Boston Police Department also have tested positive, said Sergeant Detective John Boyle.
First responders nationwide have been infected with the coronavirus. The New York Police Department has been hit exceptionally hard; three officers and 16 staff civilians have died and nearly 20 percent of the uniformed force is out sick. In Chicago on Friday, a second veteran police officer died there.
Ten Massachusetts State Police troopers so far have tested positive for COVID-19.
“Of the 10 Troopers who tested positive, 9 remain out of work,” said Dave Procopio, a spokesman for the agency. “One of the earliest who tested positive has recovered and was cleared to return to work.”
Four restaurants served Easter dinner on Sunday to patrolmen and paramedics, courtesy of CVS Health.
Members of the Boston Patrolmen’s Association and emergency medical services workers gathered for meals at The Stockyard in Brighton, The Paramount in South Boston and Beacon Hill, and West on Centre in West Roxbury.
“This act of generosity will go a long way in restoring and refueling the hundreds of Police Officers and EMS who are always giving 110%,” said Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association President Larry Calderone in a statement.
Greland, who is still recovering at home, said he was first hit with uncontrollable coughing fits on March 30.
Over 10 days, his condition worsened. His temperature, with Tylenol, fluctuated from 101 to 103.9 degrees. His breathing grew increasingly labored and rapid.
By TApril 2, Greland could not get out of bed. It was time to go to the hospital.
Greland, a 35-year veteran of the Boston Police Department, works out of the District E-13 station in Jamaica Plain.
Fifteen others from the same station tested positive around the same time, Greland said. Three of them also developed pneumonia, he said.
“The good news is, a lot of them have already returned to work,” Greland said.
Overcome with gratitude on Saturday, one day after his discharge from South Shore Hospital, Greland took to Twitter to proclaim his gratitude for the doctors and nurses who saved his life.
“I felt this incredible need; it was unbelievable,” he said. “It was an almost overwhelming need to thank the people at South Shore Hospital for what they had done.
“I will never look at a person who wears scrubs in the same way; they are truly remarkable people.”
When Greland was rolled into the emergency room on a gurney, a team of health care workers were waiting for him.
Immediately they put him on oxygen, took chest X-rays, drew blood, and performed an EKG.
“I was breathing really fast; you can’t get enough breath; you feel like you’re drowning,” Greland said.
They started him on antibiotics via IV, which was re-administered every 12 hours. He was also given the antimalarial drug, hydroxychloroquine, twice a day for seven days, Greland said.
Greland described a handful of bad late-night episodes triggered by his oxygen levels dipping dangerously low.
He would wake in the middle of the night intensely cold. His legs would spasm to the point that his hospital bed shook, Greland said.
“I was really scared,” he said. “I had absolutely no control.”
He would manage to press the call button and nurses in biosuits would run to the rescue, Greland said, adjusting his oxygen levels and stabilizing him.
“Night became a scary time for me,” Greland said. “Every night for like four nights I would have an episode.”
When Greland was discharged on Friday and wheeled by the nurses’ station, a half dozen stood and applauded.
“I almost lost it; it was close.” Greland said. “But it was pretty cool.”
Greland’s prognosis is good. Doctors told him his “lungs have taken a beating” and he shouldn’t rush his return to work.
His voice is rough and raspy and he has lost 20 pounds.
“My arms are sticks,” Greland said. “They look like they’ve been beaten with baseball bats from all the IVs.”
Greland can feel the toll that the illness took. He used to work out nearly every day. Now, he gets winded climbing a flight of stairs.
“I feel and I walk like I’m 90 years old,” Greland said. “And three weeks ago I was out doing speed-walking three miles a day.”
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