Sunday, April 20, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Three years later, injured Valley athlete Barker is an inspiration

Will Barker works to strengthen his recovering body at Sacramento State. He is assisted by physical therapy students Chris Bartkowski (green shirt), Kylee Keck (purple) and Steven Sylvester (in red). Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

By
From page B1 | November 23, 2012 | Leave Comment

SACRAMENTO — It’s an insult to the courage of William Barker III to revisit with him the night of Oct. 23, 2009.

The 19-year-old Sacramento man is focused only on the future.

Barker, as Davis High football fans will recall, was paralyzed while blocking on a kick return for Valley High.

The score that evening no longer matters (the Blue Devils won handily). Courtney Williams’ school-record five DHS touchdowns that night became a footnote.

The scary fact is Barker broke his neck in two places on the third-quarter play, almost died and was given a dire prognosis after losing use of his arms and legs.

Three years later, Will Barker is a student at Sacramento City College. He’s typing, texting and throwing touchdown passes to Randy Moss on his Madden football video game.

Barker, who was an emerging basketball star, is working with doctors and Sacramento State students as he learns to walk again.

As far as Barker is concerned this holiday season, life is pretty good …

“I’ve been blessed. God has seen fit to help bring me back … and I’m doing better every day,” Barker said while taking a break from a recent therapy session. “(Thanks to) my parents, the support never stops. They help me keep my head pointed in the right direction; urge me to live life to the fullest — which I do.”

Barker almost didn’t survive his injury. His Valley football coach Preston Jackson, a former UC Davis player, is credited with saving his life — along with on-site paramedics.

Once stabilized at the UCD Medical Center, Barker began his journey back.

He’s improved enough to graduate with his class, slowly regaining limited function in his arms and hands.

Working and rehabilitating with Sacramento State physical-therapy master’s degree students — under the supervision of Drs. Katrin Mattern-Baxter and Michael McKeough — Barker has been learning to walk again.

Nothing short of a miracle.

“He’s incredibly mature for a 19-year-old. Of course he’s had to go through a lot,” Davis resident Mattern-Baxter told The Enterprise. “He’s very, very determined. Nothing is too much for him.

“He is always after (our students) to push him harder …”

Barker and graduate physical therapist Kylee Keck each laugh when they talk about how much is enough.

“His motivation is ‘I’ll do it again, I’ll do it again,’ ” Keck says. “He never wants to quit, so we wind up saying ‘OK, we’re tired now and we have to call it quits on the treadmill.’ ”

Barker, his infectious smile even wider, says he’s ready to move forward, “24/7.”

“Yeah, I push (my friends and PT assistants) a little,” Barker admits. “They tell me I wear them out as much as they do me.”

Barker uses a wheelchair and gets assistance from family, friends and caregivers for transportation to and from class, workouts or therapy sessions.

But the determined teen has been known to get on with it without help from others. Periodically, he’s off in his chair to hit a nearby fitness gym. It’s a trip that can take up to one hour if unassisted.

But Barker doesn’t care. He’s got work to do — and any missed opportunities to work out mean it will be that much longer before he’s walking again.

“The rehabilitation is working very, very good,” Mattern-Baxter reports. “Will has shown measurable progress. He’s an athlete — and that has helped.”

In the Sacramento State program, Barker has just finished an eight-week stay in which class members have worked with their prized student in treadmill walking exercises.

Barker is able to pull himself up into a convoluted harness that holds him in an upright position.

Meanwhile, his PT partners manipulate his feet and legs into walking patterns as the treadmill moves slowly. Barker is learning to walk all over again — this time without much help from his unresponsive limbs.

Barker swears he’ll be walking again. Doctors and physical therapists won’t argue with him.

In the McKeough and Mattern-Baxter class, each student is assigned to a patient for rehabilitation. The two professors supervise the treatments, hoping they benefit the patients and bring them nearer full recovery.

“We’re serving the greater public (with) patients who require the treatment, but can’t get it any place else.”

However, thanks to Mattern-Baxter, Sacramento State professionals may get to continue their two-way revelation with Barker.

Mattern-Baxter is writing a case study that, should her supervisors agree, will lead to expanded work with Barker.

In the past eight weeks, class members have done a home assessment for Barker. They have added a pull-up rail and bench for weightlifting in his home.

Attending Sacramento City College with a study emphasis on computers and animation, Barker also is learning about sports medicine.

Recently, Barker was invited as a panelist to talk with Hornet students about “Life After Spinal Cord Injury.” Mattern-Baxter said Barker was excellent as a teacher for a day, too, explaining to 25 master’s degree hopefuls the best ways to transfer patients like himself from one environment to another.

“He is a very, very determined young man,” Mattern-Baxter concluded. “Nothing is too much for him. He’s just a compassionate, big-hearted guy.”

————

Baxter credits older siblings Derrick and Deana and younger brother Amin for being there “when I need them” and loves playing Madden 2012 with Amin. His favorite player this season? “Randy Moss. I’m a big 49ers fan.”

Baxter sent a big thank you to Davis High community members for their support during the early days of his ordeal. Four seasons ago, dozens of  local residents worked through Debi and John Flory — parents of Blue Devil player Gabe Flory — to raise funds, provide meals and work to get necessary supplies that would make life easier on the Barkers.

“I never got a chance to show my appreciation (for what Davis people) meant to me,” Barker said. “I want them to know I am working hard, going to the gym seven days a week. I’m getting back.”

Barker asked about how ex-DHS running back Williams is doing (a rising star for Aggie football) and said, “I would love to be in contact with some of the people from Davis, especially all those who helped me.

“I don’t really need much. I’ve been blessed to have so much, really. But I’d be glad to talk about anything … or just to show my appreciation. I really appreciate all that (Davis) folks have done for me.”

Notes: Barker’s email is greensupertag@gmail.com. … ”He’s been the best teacher we’ve ever had. We’ve learned so much from working with Will. He’s been a real inspiration is us,” PT master’s candidate and Barker helper Chris Bartkowski explained. … From the It’s a Two-Way Street Dept.: “(This staff) gets you to work and they teach you stuff,” Barker said, returning the compliment. “Standing, transferring, they really help me out. I can’t say enough about Sacramento State.”

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at bgallaudet@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8047.

Bruce Gallaudet

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Hub of activity: DHS newspaper keeps evolving

    By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    A springtime ritual

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Tom Adams seeks Davis school board seat

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1

     
     
    Holy fire ceremony draws thousands in Jerusalem

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Tour renovated YCCC facility Thursday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Tour Davis Waldorf School on Wednesday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    The fifth annual Tour de Cluck is soon to be hatched

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Ortiz lawn signs available

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Sign up soon for spring cooking classes

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Robb Davis team to rally on Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Steadfast in their support

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A4, 7 Comments | Gallery

     
    Yolo Hospice offers free grief workshops

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Sign up for Camp Kesem caterpillar crawl

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Quilters gear up for annual show

    By Sebastian Onate | From Page: A4

    League hosts a series of candidate forums

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    KDVS launches fund drive on Monday

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A5

    Calling all Scrabble fans

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5, 1 Comment | Gallery

     
    Hub webpage is seeing traffic increasing

    By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A8

    Learn Chinese crafts at I-House

    By Sebastian Onate | From Page: A16

     
    Preschool open house set at Davis Waldorf

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

    Birch Lane celebrates its 50th anniversary

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

     
    Hotel/conference center info meeting set

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

    Lescroart welcomes all to book-launch party

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A16 | Gallery

     
    DEVO set to serve up 14th annual Winkler Dinner

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16 | Gallery

    .

    Forum

    Take ownership of your health

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

     
    Not thrilled with lack of symmetry

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

    Reliving the agony and ecstasy of spring

    By Marion Franck | From Page: A7

     
    Keep your baby safe

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    Road diet? No, city diet!

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12, 5 Comments

    We’re reveling in our equality

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

     
    Vote no; it’s fiscally responsible

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12, 2 Comments

    Rick McKee cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A12

     
    Core values on campus

    By Our View | From Page: A12, 2 Comments

     
    Bill is an affront to UC Davis ag biotech and local farmers

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13, 2 Comments

    Don’t want to sit in Fix 50 traffic? Consider alternatives

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13, 1 Comment

     
    .

    Sports

    UCD softball shut out by Santa Barbara

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Aggie men shoot 9-under, lead own tourney

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Stars shine in Woody Wilson Classic

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1, 1 Comment | Gallery

     
    Devils burn up the track

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    UCD roundup: Aggie baseball swept away by Highlanders

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

    A’s score 3 in ninth, rally past Astros 4-3

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    .

    Business

    PG&E pays taxes, fees to county, cities

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9, 1 Comment

     
    Will Davis get an Old Soul?

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A9

    Pediatricians, nurse practitioner hired at Woodland Healthcare

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Asian stocks mostly higher after mixed U.S. earnings

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

    Yolo Federal Credit Union gets WISH funds

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Davis Roots will showcase its graduating startups

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A14

    University Honda wins another President’s Award

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A14 | Gallery

     
    Dutch Bros. raises $19,000 for girl with leukemia

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A14 | Gallery

    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, April 20, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B8