A Detroit man who was "begging for his life" died at his home earlier this month after being turned away from three different emergency rooms despite having symptoms consistent with the coronavirus. Gary Fowler, 56, died on April 7 in his blue recliner at his home in one of the city's hardest-impacted zip codes, according to the Detroit Free Press. In the days leading up to his death, he had tirelessly attempted to get medical help.
According to Keith Gambrell, Fowler's grandson, Fowler began experiencing symptoms such as fever and shortness of breath during the last week of March, just after his own father had died of the virus. With a fever of 101, he went to Beaumont Hospital, reportedly telling staff, “My father has the coronavirus" and that he "would like to get a test because I am showing symptoms.” He was turned away, being told “more than likely the fever is from bronchitis.”
Fowler returned home, having not been tested for the virus. As his condition continued to worsen, however, he visited two other hospitals, including Detroit Receiving Hospital, which directed him to Henry Ford. Despite detailing his worsening symptoms, he was again told: "You're fine. You have bronchitis. Go home. Drink water."
Fowler had such difficulty breathing that in the hours before his death, he slept sitting up in the bedroom chair, his wife, Cheryl Fowler, sleeping in the bed by his side. When she woke, her husband had died, having written on a piece of paper, "Heart beat irregular ... oxygen level low."
"I went up and talked to him. I told him I love him, and that I'll see him again one day, and that I'm sorry we couldn't even have a funeral for him. I just felt so bad because he was begging for his life, and medical professionals did nothing for him," Gambrell told the outlet. "I honestly think that's why the death rate for blacks is so high. It's because we're being pushed to the back and told to go home, but come back if you can make it before you die."
There have been more than 7,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Detroit alone, with nearly 600 deaths. In the state of Michigan, more than 30,000 people have tested positive, with fatalities surpassing 2,000. According to Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, "about 33 percent of the cases of COVID-19 in this entire state of Michigan are in African Americans, and about 40 percent" of the deaths.
This week, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer created a task force to investigate racial disparities in the pandemic. According to Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, who is the chair of the task force, it will address "the fact that there may indeed be medical bias present when it comes to testing, as in who will even get a test, as well as in how treatment is administered."
Gambrell told CBS This Morning that he and his two brothers have since tested positive for the virus. Cheryl, meanwhile, also began showing symptoms and was placed on a ventilator in a hospital. Although she was released, she was readmitted on what would have been her 25th wedding anniversary.