David Prasifka, as the Texas County Emergency Management Coordinator, was always looking for ways to help his community.
Then Prasifka got sick last week and doctors diagnosed him with acute leukemia, according to Atascosa judge Robert Hurley, who worked closely with Prasifka on the district’s Covid 19 efforts.
“David had led Atascosa County through the COVID-19 pandemic. His sense of humor, heart, and passion for not only his EM job but his family will be missed by many,” added the district officials.
A lifelong commitment to others
Before being appointed Atascosa emergency management coordinator almost six years ago, Prasifka worked for the Jourdanton Volunteer Fire Brigade for more than 25 years, initially as a volunteer fireman and then as a chief.
“David jumps in his feet first. He never ran away from a problem,” Don Penny, the county’s EMS director told CNN. “He took care of everyone else.”
In his role as emergency management coordinator, Prasifka already wore many hats. He would investigate if someone was injured at work and take steps to prevent it from happening again. He prepared the community for dangerous weather events and informed people about accidents or crimes across the county.
But when the pandemic came and quickly became “overwhelmingly serious,” Prasifka “stepped in at all levels,” said Hurley, the district judge.
“He worked in the evening, he got up early in the morning. He communicated with government officials when the PSA was extremely short. He looked for it all over the state … Sometimes he had to drive a few hundred miles to pick up the PSA. It didn’t matter how far he had to go, what he had to do to get it. ”
Prasifka had also led the county’s efforts to organize the state-run Covid-19 tests, helping to move the test locations to different locations to make testing easier for people.
“We probably had more (test sites) in our county than anyone else our size, at least in our region of Texas, and he personally led them,” said Hurley. “No question (it helped save lives) … We had extremely low numbers for a county our size until they reopened the bars and beaches.”
Two serious diagnoses at the same time
Two weeks ago, Prasifka decided to “just go to hell” at one of its Covid 19 test sites, Hurley said, and it came back negative.
He had felt tired and lost weight, but he blamed an abscessive tooth. Then, on Monday, he fainted and went to the doctor on strong recommendation from his friends and family.
“David wasn’t the type of person who would go to the doctor,” said Hurley. The doctor diagnosed him with acute leukemia and was admitted to a hospital in San Antonio, where he was retested for the coronavirus, a standard procedure in the hospital.
This time it was positive again.
“He called me Friday morning,” said Hurley. “He told me what his situation was like and that he had tested positive, but that he felt great. They would start treating the leukemia and everything would be fine. He was optimistic the way he always is.”
Hurley was told by a family member later that night that Prasifka was connected to a ventilator. The next day around noon, his organs were switched off.
“He was dead at 4:33,” said Hurley.
Continuing his work
On Monday morning, dozens of first aiders from Atascosa and neighboring Bexar County accompanied Prasifka’s body from the hospital to the funeral home.
“I was standing on the side of the road watching this procession and just crying,” said Hurley. “There were fire departments, police stations and emergency departments from all over the world.
“Everyone is in a state of sadness over the loss of David. We still can’t believe he’s gone. He was always there, always ready to help,” he added.
Penny, the district’s EMS director, has been working to keep Prasifka’s work going.
“It’s a real shame that one of our largest in Atascosa County, who has worked hard to keep us straight, died of (Covid-19),” said Penny. “I know I will continue his struggle. We worked a lot on it and he taught me a lot about the aspects of his job.”
Prasifka leaves behind four sons, his wife Donna and five grandchildren.
Although no funeral services are currently planned, his family requests that people donate flowers for leukemia or coronavirus research instead of flowers.