Southfield resident Willie Bell is pictured at his home Sept. 17. Bell’s nonprofit organization, Family Assistance for Renaissance Men, will hold a COVID-19 testing and health education fair Oct. 3 at the Silver Garden events center.

Southfield resident Willie Bell is pictured at his home Sept. 17. Bell’s nonprofit organization, Family Assistance for Renaissance Men, will hold a COVID-19 testing and health education fair Oct. 3 at the Silver Garden events center.

Photo by Jacob Herbert


COVID survivor to hold testing and health education fair

By: Jacob Herbert | Southfield Sun | Published September 22, 2020

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SOUTHFIELD — Willie Bell loves to help people. The Southfield resident is the founder and CEO of Family Assistance for Renaissance Men, a nonprofit organization that helps fathers and children.

Bell was diagnosed with COVID-19 and was sent to the hospital March 25. A chest X-ray, nasal swab and temperature check at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, showed he had pneumonia and a high fever.

“I walk into Beaumont Royal Oak fairly normal as far as my stride,” Bell said. “While I’m sitting there, for the five hours I was sitting there, I’m getting weaker. By the time they called my name, I stood up and I could barely walk across the room. I finally get back there and they do a chest X-ray and a nose swab. Then the doctor came back and told me I have the virus.”

Since Beaumont was already full with COVID patients, Bell had to drive 45 minutes west to Ann Arbor to be admitted to the hospital at the University of Michigan. For the next nine days, Bell was on and off the ventilator and in and out of physical therapy. Battling intense fatigue was perhaps the toughest challenge of dealing with the virus. Simple tasks such as putting on socks and getting up out of bed became more and more difficult.

But through good company, his faith and physical therapy, Bell was released from the hospital April 3.

“I don’t remember my time at the hospital being that bad because of my faith,” Bell said. “I knew I was coming home.”

It was his time in the hospital, along with the death of a close friend to the virus that inspired Bell to put on a COVID-19 testing event and health fair Oct. 3 at the Silver Garden Events Center in Southfield.

Drive-up tests for COVID-19, flu shots, and screenings for blood pressure, HIV and antibodies will be administered by the Wayne State University Physicians Group from 9 a.m. until noon.

Residents can also expect to receive health information on lupus, mental health, cancers, strengthening their immune system, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and blood pressure.

Residents can register on-site or beforehand by texting “MI Cares” to 48355, and a hyperlink will be sent to their smartphone device. For more information, call (313) 717-2882.

Event attendees can expect to receive masks, food boxes and gift cards, which will be distributed while supplies last.

Bell said there are several underlying issues that end up endangering people who contract the virus. For his friend, it was his high blood pressure. The doctors had trouble balancing his time on the ventilator with his blood pressure.

“I wanted to do this to honor him and to give other people an opportunity to get tested,” Bell said. “We’re very excited about the process.”

The Ballmer Group, DTE Energy and McGregor fund are some of the top sponsors of the event. Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie Snyder, gave Bell a grant to actually test people rather than just handing out information.

Bell ensured a safe event for those who may be wary of contracting the virus.

“It’s going to be safe testing, and it’s going to be in your car,” Bell said. “You need to be tested so you know whether or not you’re a carrier, asymptomatic or whether you’re going to be affecting other people.”

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