Gary's Health Commissioner honored with prestigious nomination from John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

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Tuesday, September 8, 2020
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"The nomination is the culmination of what I've been doing for my community and my family- which is no more than should be expected, so I appreciate it."

GARY, Ind., (WLS) -- The head of Gary Indiana's public health department has controlled the coronavirus about as well as anyone in the Chicago region.

Dr. Roland Walker did it all while battling it himself and caring for his elderly parents who came down with COVID-19 - and have survived.

Walker has been nominated for a Profile in Courage award for COVID-19 frontline workers from the John F Kennedy Presidential Library.

"There has been kind of a lack of a plan a national plan, and so the thought process was we'll bring my parents up here so that we would be able to shop for them get their proper medications and keep them safe," Walker said.

Tommy L .Walker Sr., 82, and his wife Juanita arrived in Gary from Mississippi at the behest of their son.

In late March the couple contracted COVID-19 and Walker Sr. suffered seizures and a stroke. Juanita Walker had similar complications.

"My mom was on a ventilator for two months. She was in the ICU for a period and she had to get a tracheostomy in the hospital until they could wean her off the vent," Walker said.

Juanita Walker spent four months in the hospital and is now recovering inside their rental home.

"They did the best they can do. I am here now, a lot of people didn't make it and I have the determination I have a lot of things to do. I was not ready to give up," Walker Sr. said. "You don't get something for nothing in life."

Gary was one of the first municipalities to to institute a mask mandate.

The physician - a pediatrician by training - had a relatively symptom free bout with COVID-19 but figured, like his parents, he's a "long hauler" with the disease.

Walker expects that lung effects could keep popping up

"This virus does not discriminate," he said.

The doctor said he does not know who nominated him for the award from the JFK Presidential Library,but he heard about the tip of the cap from Gary Mayor Jerome Prince.

"I was on my way to the hospital and I get a call and he says 'congratulations' and I am asking him 'congratulations for what?' and he informed me, and I was very shocked and to this moment I do not know who nominated me and I am very honored," he explained.

"The nomination is the culmination of what I've been doing for my community and my family- which is no more than should be expected, so I appreciate it. And this is what you do for family, this is what you do for community, and I hope that is an inspiration so that other people can do the same," Walker said.

The doctor is a marathon runner and he said one effect of COVID-19 is that he now has high blood pressure.

He said however that will not stop him from traveling to Boston to claim his award from the JFK presidential library if and when they get back to him.