Tennessee pastor declares ‘COVID is real’ after disease forced him into coma

Senior pastor of Berea Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., Michael Napier (R) and his wife Linda (L)
Senior pastor of Berea Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., Michael Napier (R) and his wife Linda (L) | Facebook/Linda Heath Napier

After spending weeks fighting off the deadly coronavirus at a local hospital, a Tennessee pastor is thanking God for helping him survive the disease and is now warning others to take the virus seriously.

“COVID is real. I hear it being politicized and it’s very frustrating. The mask had become a political issue. I don’t have a political issue or a dog in this fight, but when people say, ‘I’m not going to wear a mask because I don’t need a mask,’ maybe you’re right, but what about the person next to you?” asked Michael Napier, senior pastor of Berea Baptist Church in Knoxville, during a recent interview with ABC 6.

Napier, 60, who struggles with liver issues and diabetes, told the network that when he started showing symptoms of a COVID-19 infection in mid-August, he had been trying to live carefully because he knew he was at a higher risk to develop serious complications from it.

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He initially developed a sore throat and had difficulty breathing among other symptoms on Aug. 12, but did not test positive for the virus until his third time visiting the doctor about his worsening condition.

On his first visit, Napier tested negative for the virus but a chest X-Ray on a subsequent visit would reveal he had pneumonia in both his lungs. His infection was later diagnosed after he was rushed to the ER with breathing problems.

Things were so bad, Napier said, that when doctors told him to call his wife, Linda, he had a sinking feeling they weren’t very confident about his chances of recovery.

Members of Berea Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., pray outside the home of their senior pastor, Michael Napier, as he battled the coronavirus on Aug. 31, 2020.
Members of Berea Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., pray outside the home of their senior pastor, Michael Napier, as he battled the coronavirus on Aug. 31, 2020. | Facebook/Linda Heath Napier

“They had dialed the number for me to talk to my wife, said ‘talk to your wife and talk about the good times you had.’ I thought that they were trying to calm my anxiety. In kind of retrospect, I think that was my goodbye call. I think that they thought, ‘this is it; he’s not going to make it,'” Napier told ABC 6.

And Linda said she had the same feeling when she spoke with her husband’s doctor, who explained that he had to be intubated.

“I asked her what kind of chance he had, and she said ‘it doesn’t look good.’ And I just knew I was going to end up a widow,” she recalled. “Of course I knew, they already told me in the ER that there was an 85% mortality rate when they’re intubated.”

The Christian Post reached out to the couple’s church Thursday and they weren’t immediately available to answer questions about their journey but Linda shared some of what she endured in daily updates on her Facebook page as her husband battled the virus.

While she dreaded the death of her husband, Linda refused to give up without a spiritual fight and she called on her church family to pray.

“I really need some prayer warriors right now. I would like for those of you that have a relationship with our Savior to please lift up my husband, my soul mate to the throne of God. Mike has been diagnosed with Covid as of yesterday morning. I got a call from Mike’s nurse at 4:30 this morning saying that they were going to have to put him on a ventilator. He was struggling to breathe and his body wouldn’t be able to handle much more. I’m so scared. I hate not being with him. I can’t lose him! Please pray!” she wrote in her first public post on Aug. 20.

A day later, members of their church would show up outside their home to pray for her husband’s recovery and show support for her extended family as Pastor Napier lay comatose for days.

Three weeks later, Linda said doctors told her they would remove her husband from intubation in what she saw as a series of miracles in his recovery. She was soon allowed to sit outside his ICU door in another move she called miraculous.

“Right before they pulled the tube out, they let me come and just sit outside the glass there in the ICU and I’d write little notes on a whiteboard and hold them up to the window,” Linda said.

She also saw her husband waking up from his coma as another miracle and Pastor Napier agreed.

“I’ve lost 70 pounds to the thing, I lost strength in my legs, my arms. People think COVID is a political thing, or they try to politicize it. Let me tell you something, it’s not. People, people are dying. It is a miracle, me, with the age that I am, the pre-existing conditions I have, that I pulled through that and that’s nothing short of God himself,” he said.

The Tennessee pastor has since returned home with his wife and is continuing his journey to a full recovery from the virus.

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