LANCASTER, Ky. — After spending 71 days battling COVID-19 in the hospital, 81-year-old Joe Barker went home to find a dozen U.S. flags lining his driveway and his friends from the Kentucky Patriot Guard Riders cheering him on.
Barker was admitted to Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center in Danville, Kentucky on Jan. 21 after testing positive for the coronavirus. His condition quickly deteriorated, and he was put on a ventilator four days later.
“The doctors gave us no hope,” said Peggy Barker, Joe’s wife. “We just relied on our faith and that’s what got us through. That was the only thing we had at times.”
Barker had been trying to get an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine but wasn’t able to get one in time, according to family members. Barker is also part of a vulnerable demographic, which led doctors to give him grim survival odds.
“We’ve had people praying for him from Florida to Michigan and I can’t count the number of prayer lists he’s been on,” nephew Roger Woods said.
Joe Barker’s health fluctuated over the weeks. After fighting for almost two months, he stabilized.
“God put his hands on me,” Joe Barker said.
After two weeks at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital, Joe Barker was released to finally go home where his 7-year-old granddaughter Taylor was waiting to give him a hug and handpicked flowers. The homecoming was incredibly emotional. Joe Barker cried as he hugged the loved ones who were waiting to welcome him home.
“Oh, what a beautiful day,” he said. “I never dreamed of this.”
Among those waiting for him were members of the Kentucky Patriot Guard Riders, which Barker has been a part of since 2007.
“I’ve had a rough ride, but God will be with me and I will be back,” he told them. “I just pray to God that I might get back on my motorcycle and continue to do military funerals.”
“We just think he’s a warrior,” daughter Tammy Napier said.
Barker’s road to recovery won’t be easy, but his family and friends say they’ll be with him every step of the way.
This story was originally published by Sofia Millar on WLEX in Lexington, Kentucky.