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As Terry Greear looked at his selfie — showing him with an oxygen mask on his first night at the hospital with Covid-19 — he relived the fear he felt that day. “I was extremely scared,” Greear said.

He didn’t understand what was happening to him. He was a 42-year-old elementary school coach who was athletic and healthy. And now he was having trouble breathing, was running a fever and his fingers had turned blue. On his mind were his two sons, Matthew, 16, and Ryan, 12, and his wife, Stephanie.

Describing those moments recently, Stephanie Greear broke into tears. In the emergency room, she’d feared the worst, she recalled.

“I kept thinking, ‘Oh, my God. What if this is the last time they (her sons) saw their dad?'” Stephanie said.
That was the beginning of a 72-day battle with Covid-19 for the Greear family. Terry says he doesn’t remember many details because his condition deteriorated quickly. But the agonizing moments are forever etched on Stephanie’s mind. That night, she became mom and dad to her children.

All the while, Terry fought for his life.
Terry Greear took this selfie on the first day of his 72-day hospital battle with Covid-19.
Terry Greear took this selfie on the first day of his 72-day hospital battle with Covid-19.
“She’s a superhero,” Terry said. “She was my superhero.”

As Terry heads back Tuesday to teaching, his family wants to share their rollercoaster of pain, they told CNN, to try to save others from living the kind of agony they endured — especially as average daily coronavirus cases have surged eightfold in Florida in the past month, a CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows.
The Greear family’s message: Get vaccinated.

‘God … please save him’
It was mid-January of 2021. The Greears, who are die-hard Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans, were hoping the Bucs would make it to the Super Bowl. And Terry and Stephanie were looking forward to doing something fun and exciting for their 20-year anniversary. The family was taking precautions against Covid-19, with both parents planning to get the vaccine as soon as it became available to people like them in their 40s.

But one night, Terry, who’s gone by Coach Beard since one of his kindergarteners had trouble pronouncing Greear, was heading out the door to coach a high school soccer game when he felt sick.
“I didn’t feel right,” he recalled. “My body felt hot.”

Terry was running a fever, he said, so he stayed home from the game and got tested for Covid-19 the next day. He tested positive.
“You’re going to be OK,” Stephanie remembers telling Terry. “You’re going to be sick for seven to 10 days. You’re going to be fine.”
But in a matter of days the healthy, 42-year-old elementary school coach passed out, his fingers turned blue and he was rushed to the emergency room. He was later transferred to the intensive care unit.

Every time Stephanie’s phone rang, she felt panic, not knowing the type of news awaiting her on the other end of the line, she said.
“I held my breath the entire time,” Stephanie said. “I never knew what they were going to tell me.”
Terry Greear’s iconic beard was shaved in the hospital. He lost 50 pounds.
Terry Greear’s iconic beard was shaved in the hospital. He lost 50 pounds.

The worst phone call came at 5 a.m. on January 24, when she learned her husband was getting intubated and placed in a medically induced coma, she said.
“It was the worst phone call I’ve ever received in my life. I couldn’t believe it happened,” Stephanie said. “I asked the doctors and nurses if he could hear me. She (the doctor) said, ‘Go talk to him. He may be able to hear you. We don’t know.'”

Stephanie remembers the sounds of the machines all around him. She broke into tears describing how she prayed over his body and then played his favorite music — reggae rock — hoping it would drown out the sounds of the machines.
“I asked God to please save him,” Stephanie said.

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