16-year-old Blackwell football player hospitalized with COVID-19, placed on full ventilator

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BLACKWELL, Okla. (KFOR) – A 16-year-old Blackwell, Okla., football player is hospitalized with COVID-19 Friday and has been placed on a full ventilator.

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Levi Barnett in a hospital bed.

Levi Barnett tested positive for the virus about two weeks ago and has been hospitalized for just over that amount of time. Barnett is now at OU Children’s Hospital battling COVID-19, double lung pneumonia and strep throat. His mother, Heatherlynn Barnett, said the doctors were forced to put him on a full ventilator Friday night and that it hasn’t been too good. Both she and her fiancé, Frankie Blakely, said they’re just hoping he makes it out.

“Every day is just heart wrenching seeing him lay there and suffer,” Barnett said.

“It’s been pretty rough,” said Frankie Blakely, Heatherlynn’s fiancé.

Barnett said she has been by her son’s side as he’s been fighting for his life.

“It gets depressing,” Barnett said. “You just sit there and you watch your sick child and all you can do is just pray for them to be better.”

It all started when the family from Blackwell got a call from the school saying that Levi was sick.

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Levi Barnett

“He’d come home, and he was just sick as a dog,” Barnett said. “Running a 103 fever, later that night it spiked to 104. He had severe headaches.”

After testing positive, Barnett and the family tried to find a hospital for her son that had open beds. They almost had to drive to Kansas at one point. At the last minute though, they were able to get him in at OU Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City. Barnett said it’s been a rollercoaster ride ever since.

“One day he’s good with this COVID stuff and the next he has a setback,” Barnett said.

Levi’s oxygen levels have been fluctuating and he’s only been on a liquid diet.

“He just lays there and begs for drinks; he begs to eat,” Barnett said. “I just have to coach him and guide him and tell him to breathe through it.”

Levi has high-functioning autism. He joined the Blackwell High School football team this past summer. Barnett said her once anti-social kid just started to come out of his shell.

“In the last year, he’s just sprouted his wings,” she said.

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Levi and his family.

Both Barnett and her fiancé have been left with nowhere to stay in the city. They have been alternating every two days at the hospital with each other and making the hour-and-a-half drive back to Blackwell multiple times per week. Now, they said they hope Levi just makes it out OK.

“He’s a strong kid,” Blakely said.

“At this point, there’s not really anything else that they can do for him besides let his body fight,” Barnett said.

Barnett said as of Sunday they will be staying at a hotel in the city. Doctors have told her and her fiancé that her son will be what’s considered a COVID “long-hauler” and will have long lasting side effects. They are told it could take weeks or even months to get out of the hospital or even for recovery if he makes it out.

Friday night, the Blackwell football team ran out of their tunnel with Barnett’s jersey to honor him.

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The Blackwell team honors their ailing teammate, Levi Barnett.

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