Gary Fowler had been experiencing shortness of breath, a cough, and fever before he died in a blue recliner at his Grosse Pointe Woods home in Michigan in early April.
The 56-year-old’s family says he was turned away from three Detroit-area hospitals weeks before he succumbed to what was likely the novel virus on April 7.
“My dad passed at home, and no one tried to help him,” his stepson, Keith Gambrell, told the Detroit Free Press. “He asked for help, and they sent him away. They turned him away.”
Gambrell, a 33-year-old Detroit resident, said his father was turned away from Beaumont Hospital in Grosse Pointe, Detroit Receiving Hospital and Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital even after he explained his symptoms and told health officials that his own father had tested positive for virus.
According to Gambrell, Fowler began showing symptoms in late March after he visited his father, David Fowler, who at time was thought to have the flu. It was only after the 76-year-old was found unresponsive on a bathroom floor and was subsequently placed on a ventilator — after being admitted to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit — that the family knew he had the virus.
The diagnosis left Gambrell questioning his stepfather’s health. He then attempted to confirm his fears, taking Fowler to three different hospitals, but was denied a test each time.
“I honestly believe it was because my father was black,” he told “CBS This Morning.” “They didn’t honestly take his symptoms serious enough to give him a test.”
Following Fowler’s death, Beaumont Hospital said, “We are doing all we can to evaluate, triage and care for patients based on the information we know at the time,” according to the Detriot Free Press. “When making care decisions, we do not discriminate against anyone based upon their gender, race, or any other factor. We grieve the loss of any patient to COVID-19 or any other illness.”
Several of Gambrell’s relatives have also showed symptoms of the virus. David Fowler died in a hospital bed just hours before his son Gary passed away. The family members are now awaiting their test results at home. But it would not have been done without Gambrell cousin state Rep. Karen Whitsett, who said she thinks her family would not have been tested if she were not a state lawmaker.
“And that sickens me to have to use that title to be able to have to get my family tested,” she told “CBS Morning news.”
During a Facebook Live interview Thursday, April 16, Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said Blacks make up a third of all cases related to the virus. However, they only account for 14 percent of the state’s population.
Hear more of Fowler’s story in the video below.