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Front-line health care worker dies after contracting COVID-19

Longtime Las Vegas emergency room nurse Greg Peistrup died Thursday night, 12 days after testing positive for COVID-19. Peistrup, who worked for Superior Emergency Physicians at North Vista Hospital, was 53.

“They have a grueling job, even before the virus, but he loved taking care of people,” his wife, Kristin Bell-Peistrup, said Saturday afternoon. “He pretty much worked at every single hospital in the city.”

The long drive from his Mountain’s Edge home to North Vista in North Las Vegas did nothing to discourage Peistrup’s connection with the physicians there, and he enjoyed meeting new graduates beginning their careers.

“He started off as a medic in the Army and fell in love with medicine,” Bell-Peistrup said. “He did have a couple new grads at the hospital, and when they’d start their shift, he’d ask them: ‘Three or five?’ That’s how many questions they were allowed to ask in a shift.”

Bell-Peistrup had traveled to San Diego before her husband tested positive. The couple agreed she should quarantine there, away from him.

Peistrup had been feeling body aches and was losing his appetite more each day, his wife said. After the first week following his diagnosis, his symptoms began to grow more serious each day. On Thursday night, he died in his sleep, Bell-Peistrup told the Review-Journal.

Peistrup, she said, was well aware of the challenges that emergency room nurses face, but he would take on whatever 12-hour shift asked of him with a smile and a joke.

Bell-Peistrup said her husband was outgoing and made friends and acquaintances easily, especially through his work at valley hospitals. She said he was always happy to see a familiar face and maybe teach them something new.

“He always wanted to push people to be the best person they could be,” she said.

After his death, many of those people — especially health care colleagues — took to Facebook to remember a man they admired and who had touched their lives.

“We all know that any patient that walked into an (emergency department) and Greg was their care provider it was their lucky day,” Brett Olbur posted on Facebook on Friday morning. “They had the Top Gun of providers who cared for them like one of his own. He would be relentless to care for you, and make you feel safe and better.”

Olbur later told the Review-Journal he met Peistrup in 1989, when he was working as the paramedic supervisor for MedicWest and Peistrup was a nurse in the University Medical Center emergency room.

“Everybody wanted to be like Greg. He treated everybody like their own brother and sister out there,” Olbur, now the EMS liaison for Dignity Health, said Sunday. “He’d tell you about his great trip or his stupid jokes everybody laughed at.”

Olbur texted Peistrup about three weeks ago with a medical question and said that two minutes later, his phone was ringing. Peistrup pointed him in the right direction and was known to follow up with his friends.

“People were just drawn to him, and he was so smart but practical,” he said. “With his loyalty, he was your friend for life.”

Mentor and friend

Liza Henley, 31, met Peistrup on her first day in the Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center emergency room when she was 19. Henley, who is now the emergency room health unit coordinator at Sunrise, stayed friends with Peistrup for more than a decade. She said he inspired her to be a wellness coach.

“I think he could see the scaredness and overwhelmed feeling in my eyes,” she said, recalling that first meeting. “Greg was the first adult outside of my family that made me want to believe my vivaciousness and my craziness will one day be an asset people will appreciate.”

Henley said she remembers the first time a physician yelled at her because Peistrup took her to lunch that day.

“Just to have someone you respect so much believe in your spirit and laughter and personality,” she said. “He spent his life dedicated to making people feel special.”

Proud dad

While Peistrup loved his work as a nurse, he was a devoted dad to his two sons, Bryen and Christopher, said his sister-in-law, Clark County Chief District Judge Linda Bell.

“He was such a great dad to his two boys,” Bell, 52, said through tears.

Peistrup, she said, was over the moon when he heard that his son, Deputy City Marshal Bryen Peistrup, 27, was expecting a baby girl in December. “He was already buying diaper bags. That’s just so tragic that his granddaughter is not ever going to know him.”

Bell-Peistrup recalled her first meeting with her future husband and his two boys. She said her fondness for the two boys who would later become her stepsons was immediate, but she at first didn’t quite know what to make of their father when she met the trio on a scuba diving trip in 2003.

“These completely adorable, fun boys were in our scuba class with this man who I thought was kind of obnoxious at first. After you hang out for the whole weekend I realized he was actually brilliant and witty, and I gave him my business card and said, ‘Call me some time,’ ” she remembered.

Peistrup proposed three years later with a ring inside an oyster while scuba diving, and the two were married Sept. 30, 2006.

Bell-Peistrup recalled the memorable trips they took to scuba dive in Maldives and stay a night in an underwater bungalow, and a river cruise from Hungary to Germany.

The two also faced a tragedy together when

Peistrup’s oldest son, Christopher, died in a motorcycle accident on Sept. 3, 2013, after he collided with a box truck on U.S. Highway 95 near Cheyenne Avenue, the Review-Journal reported at the time.

Bell-Peistrup said that between her stepson’s death, her husband’s death and her Sept. 30 anniversary, “September is going to be a rough month for me for a while.”

“He was my soul mate, my partner,” she wrote Saturday night in a text message. “The way he would light up when he knew he’d made a positive impact (helping, teaching or saving someone) was so bright.”

In addition to his wife and son, Peistrup is survived by his mother, Gail Keppner; brothers, Jeff and Tim Peistrup; sister Amy Peistrup Matthews; sister-in-law; two brothers-in-law; and 12 nieces and nephews.

A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the gender of Greg Peistrup’s grandchild.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter. Review-Journal reporter Katelyn Newberg contributed to this report.

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