Elizabeth Keogh, Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News
An NYPD lieutenant who nearly lost his life battling a COVID-19 infection he caught on the job has won his fight to retire with a disability pension.
Lt. Yvan Pierre-Louis retired from the Police Department last Tuesday, closing out a 32-year career.
Pierre-Louis is one of about 10 officers of different ranks who came down with very serious cases of COVID during the early days of the pandemic. These officers were never able to work full duty again, said Lou Turco, who heads the NYPD’s Lieutenants Benevolent Association.
The city’s Police Pension Fund approved Pierre-Louis’ plea to receive the same disability pension any officer injured in the line of duty would take home — a decision Turco praised as “the right move.”
“When the whole thing started with COVID, we thought of 9/11,” said Turco. “We were told the air quality was fine, and that was a lie. People subsequently have gotten cancer and died from all those toxins.
“When COVID hit, all the union presidents sat with the departments and said, ‘We can’t go through what we did with 9/11,’ ” Turco recounted.
The Police Pension Fund has shown willingness to grant disability pensions in severe COVID cases.
NYPD Detective Mike Smith, who nearly died of COVID — he was given last rites — won a disability pension in June. As they weighed Smith’s pension request, Police Pension Fund board members said each COVID-related case would be evaluated separately, partly because it’s not easy to determine the source of a COVID infection.
Pierre-Louis, 61, believes he caught the deadly bug around March 20, 2020, while assigned to courthouse duty in Manhattan. He has not worked since.
“The judges and the lawyers were wearing masks, but we weren’t wearing masks,” he recalled. “There was a nurse at Central Booking that took my temperature. It was a little high — 99.1 degrees.”
He quickly fell ill and was confined to his home in Hempstead, L.I., for a week before he was hospitalized.
Pierre-Louis was comatose and attached to a ventilator for more than two months, and hospitalized for more than five. Like Detective Smith, he was given last rites when it was believed he would not survive the virus.
But Pierre-Louis grew stronger and began to recover — a feat doctors told him was a “miracle.”
“The doctor would cry because that’s the first time they had a critical [COVID] patient that was supposed to die leave,” Pierre-Louis said. “They thought they’d put me in the morgue, the doctors thought I wasn’t going to leave.”
Pierre-Louis — who while on the job had never had any illness more serious than a cold — now endures COVID-related nerve damage and needs an oxygen tank to breathe.
“I love music, I love dancing,” he said. “If I tried to dance, after one or two minutes I have to stop, because dance is a physical movement, and if you do that your oxygen level goes down.”
The grandfather of eight children said had it not been for the infection, he would have stayed with the NYPD “until the department kicked me out.”
“I cannot say anything bad about the Police Department,” he said. “They’ve got some great people. Everything I asked them to do, they do it for me without any question. They were good to me.”