Polk County Sheriff’s Office officials are asking that people keep sending up prayers for Sgt. Barry Henderson, who continues to be treated for complications of COVID-19.
Chief Deputy Jonathan Blackmon said last week that Henderson, who has a combined 18 years of service with both the sheriff’s office and the Polk County Police Department, was improving slowly each day but he still has a long way to go in his recovery.
“They have been able to reduce his ventilator down to 50% after it had been at 100 % for about six or seven days,” Blackmon said. “We just ask for continued prayers for him and his family.”
Henderson was admitted to Northside Hospital in Atlanta on Jan. 7. He was stable enough on Thursday that doctors were planning to move him to a “step-up” unit at Emory University Hospital to continue the recovery process.
Blackmon said they were waiting on a bed to open up in order for the move to take place.
“He’s definitely taking steps in the right direction,” Blackmon said. “We’re excited about that.”
Henderson is a classified gang expert for the state court system and is over operations for the sheriff’s office’s work detail, C.H.A.M.P.S. program and the Polk Safe Kids program.
“He wears a pretty big hat,” Blackmon said.
Blackmon and Sheriff Johnny Moats have visited Henderson in the hospital in the last few weeks, with Blackmon serving as the agency’s chaplain as well.
He said Henderson’s wife, Chrissy, has expressed her gratitude for all of the thoughts and prayers, as well as the texts and cards she has received from the community.
“She has had a good outpouring of support from the community reaching out to her,” Blackmon said.
How the community can support Henderson and his family is being expanded thanks to a fundraiser promoted in part by the sheriff’s office and High Voltage Prints in Rome.
People can purchase T-shirts for $15 each featuring the hashtag “#sixstrong” that references Henderson’s radio call number. Orders can be made using the Venmo mobile payment service by searching for @PolkCountySheriff, or by going by the sheriff’s office Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
While Blackmon said they expect to make one order early this week he is certain they will have another order.
Blackmon said the sheriff’s office has been lucky during the COVID-19 pandemic. Henderson is the first employee to have required medical attention from complications of the coronavirus, and only four inmates have tested positive for it, all of which have only been recently.
“We’re doing good. It’s absolutely amazing,” Blackmon said. “The county administrators have done well keeping us prepared, giving us PPE, and a fogging machine to disinfect large areas. And we screen all inmates before they are booked in and isolate them before they are placed into the general population. “
As part of the state of Georgia’s vaccination program, law enforcement officers and first responders are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Blackmon said the Polk County Health Department made sure they knew they were allowed to get the vaccine and 20 out of 86 employees had received at least the first of two doses. He said they have not mandated that employees get the vaccine in order to continue to work.