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Listen MKE: Milwaukeeans Share Experiences, Challenges Of Contracting COVID-19

Screenshot / WUWM
Earl Arms (top left) and Arnitta Holliman (bottom left) co-moderated a conversation with State Rep. David Bowen (top middle), Simmone Kilgore (bottom middle), Arkesia Jackson (top right) and Rev. Gregory Lewis (bottom right).

WUWM has been partnering with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee PBS and the Milwaukee Public Library on an initiative called Listen MKE. Its goal: help north side residents get the information they want and need.

This Listen MKE conversation focuses on COVID-19 and the devastating effect it's had on Milwaukee’s Black community. Many of the survivors face unique physical and mental health challenges.

To discuss those challenges and their experieces, Listen MKE brought together five Milwaukeeans who have contracted the virus: State Rep. David Bowen, political consultant Arkesia Jackson, Rev. Greg Lewis, and mental health clinicians Simone Kilgore and Arnitta Holiman.

The program is co-moderated by Arnitta Holliman and Earl Arms, host of Milwaukee PBS’ Black Nouveau.

Watch the full conversation here:

Rev. Greg Lewis said that because of his diabetes and other health complications, doctors told him he was likely to die when he was admitted to the hospital in late March of 2020.

“I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t taste anything, I couldn’t eat, I didn’t eat for three weeks. If I picked up a bottle of water, it felt like a 20-pound weight,” he said.

Lewis said at times it was hard to understand even how sick he was but that his trust in God made him feel like he could overcome and survive. After he left the hospital he realized how much having COVID-19 changed his body. 

"When I was dying, I was not afraid, but when I found out I was gonna live I was scared to death because I said 'I'm never gonna be the same,' " said Lewis. 

Mental health clincian Simmone Kilgore also contracted the disease early in the pandemic. When she started to get sick, she feared she'd get so sick that she'd need to go to the hospital.

"Physcially, I felt horrible. I had never felt anything like it in life before, which is why I was so sure it was COVID-19," Kilgore explained. 

State Rep. David Bowen said many people told him when he contracted COVID-19 that having it would be like having the flu and it would be over in a few days. Bowen said he then saw stories from across the nation about younger people with no pre-existing conditions who had died. He said that during his six weeks in isolation, he felt depressed. 

"I would have people that would check on me but a lot of times it just felt like if people were checking to see if I was like dead yet," Bowen said.