‘Please, get vaccinated:’ Retired MPD officer urges vaccinations after wife dies of COVID-19

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — On Christmas day of this year, a retired Memphis Police officer and his wife would have been celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. But now it won’t happen, because his wife died recently after they both got COVID-19.

Retired police sergeant Mike Schafer, 52, is an 18-year veteran known for his dedication for fighting crime on the streets of Memphis. He spoke with WREG from his hospital bed in a Florida rehab facility, where he’s now slowly recovering.

“It’s scary. It’s a very scary thing. You are literally in the fight for your life,” Schafer said.

He wasn’t the only one. Schafer and his 53-year-old wife, Debbie, who were Disney fanatics and lived in Central Florida, were admitted to AdventHealth ICU within days of each other.

“We both tested positive for COVID. I had a dry cough and Debbie started coughing too,” Schafer said.

They were blindsided when they learned they had COVID-19.

“We social distanced. We did all of that. We took precaution,” Schafer said. “So, when we found out, it floored us. We were shocked.”

Schafer’s been in the hospital since May 21st. He’s supposed to return to their home in Celebration, Florida this weekend. But his wife Debbie won’t be with him.

“Unfortunately, Debbie, never made it out of ICU, my lovely wife,” Schafer said. “She passed away on June 17 a little after 6 p.m. My world at that point came crashing down.”

Schafer said he and Debbie did everything together. They didn’t have kids but had miniature dachshunds.

“To get that phone call while I’m in the hospital fighting for my life, she’s fighting for her life and to know she didn’t make it, is something you can’t put into words,” Schafer said.

He says there’s one thing they both regretted.

“Let me say first off, we regret—and this is a conversation she and I had over Zoom because we were both in ICU together. We have such regret for not getting the vaccine,” Schafer said.

It’s why he is on a mission to encourage others to get vaccinated.

“We realize we made a mistake,” Schafer said. “If you look at the numbers, the benefits far outweigh the risks and you could actually save somebody’s life. So, we made a decision that our story has got to be told.”

He hopes to inspire others as he deals with the heart-wrenching loss of his wife.

“Unfortunately, Debbie didn’t make it, and I don’t want anybody to have to go through this,” Schafer sais. “Please, get vaccinated.”

Schafer says he and his late wife were not anti-vaccine. He says they just wanted to see if there were any “long-term side effects” from it, which he regrets.

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