OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — It’s been four months since Kevin Brown experienced his first symptom of COVID-19. And, despite not having received a paycheck since January, he has been unable to collect pandemic-related financial assistance.
“About the week before Jan. 28, I started feeling bad,” Brown, of Overland Park, said. “Kept telling my wife I had this headache. Every morning I got up I had this bad headache.”
Within days, Brown noticed his body become weak. He started sleeping more and struggled to breathe.
When Brown’s oxygen levels dropped into the mid-80s, his wife, Danna dropped him off at the emergency room.
“I had to drop him off at the door and say goodbye,” Danna said. “I didn’t know if I was gonna see him again.”
The lab tests and X-rays didn’t look good.
“They told me my lungs was (sic) all white,” Brown said. “They said, ‘Your lungs need to be black.'”
Brown said doctors urged him to go on a ventilator, but with fears he would never wake up, Brown said he refused.
While in the ICU, Brown said he witnessed first hand the devastation of the pandemic.
“I was in the ICU and there was people on both sides of me dying,” Brown said. “You just hear them running in there, these guys, people crashing and they can’t save them. There’s nothing they can do. You just thank God it’s not you.”
With tears falling down both cheeks, Brown said he worried he wouldn’t make it home to his wife.
“I started asking the nurse to call my family so I could tell them bye,” Brown said. “I love my wife. I love my family. It just ain’t right, ya know?”
Despite the odds, Brown returned home in March. In-home nursing staff now provides care to Brown, who requires round-the-clock oxygen from a lingering lung infection that’s resistant to antibiotics.
“This (oxygen) chord follows me everywhere I go,” Brown said.
Prior to becoming sick, Brown said he worked roughly 70 hours a week as a truck driver. It’s a job he loved. Brown’s last paycheck was in January.
Despite multiple attempts to receive financial assistance from the Missouri Department of Labor, Brown hasn’t been approved for any assistance. Because he lives in Kansas, but works in Missouri, he has to get assistance from Missouri.
Brown has been trying to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which is supposed to help people affected by COVID-19 who do not qualify for traditional unemployment.
“I talked to a woman, she said, ‘Oh you’re not eligible for nothing.’ I said, ‘Ma’am do you understand what you’re telling me? What do you want me to do?'” Brown said.
Brown’s story echoes that of hundreds of people across Kansas and Missouri who have complained about a broken system that’s made getting financial assistance a challenge.
The I-Team reached out to the labor department. A spokesperson said, that while she can’t share details about Brown’s case, she would look into the matter.
Brown said he received a call the next day-but still isn’t sure if he’ll get any assistance.
By this point, Brown said, the money will come too late. He and his wife are planning to sell their Overland Park home. It’s a home Brown remodeled himself.
“So, we just have to up and say, ‘Hey, we’re going pause this right now,'” Brown said. “Hopefully, we’ll have another chance at having another home we really want before life passes us by.”
Brown, a Kansas City Chiefs fan, said despite the financial troubles, he’s still grateful. Grateful to be alive. Grateful for the doctors and nurses who saved him. And grateful for his wife who has remained by his side.
Brown looks to the future with optimism and has plans to be back at Arrowhead Stadium this fall.
“Oh, I’m gonna be out there,” Brown said. “I’ll be out there even if I have to take oxygen-I gotta be there for a game.”
Earlier this month, Gov. Mike Parson announced the state will terminate PUA assistance on June 12.
Brown’s family has started a GoFundMe account to help with medical expenses.