Mom of family repeatedly denied care for coronavirus hospitalized with blood clot in lungs

Kristen Jordan Shamus
Detroit Free Press

DETROIT – Cheryl Fowler is back in the hospital, this time with a blood clot in her lungs.

The 57-year-old Grosse Pointe Woods mother of four has been through a lot in the last few weeks.

She lost her husband, Gary Fowler, and father-in-law, David Fowler, to COVID-19 in early April.

Then, she was hospitalized and needed ventilator support to breathe.

While she was being treated at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Cheryl Fowler tested positive for the virus, which continued to sweep through their family — infecting her sons Keith Gambrell and his younger brothers, Troy and Ross Fowler, as well.

The family's plight — Gambrell said his father went to three metro Detroit hospitals as he grew sicker and sicker, but was turned away and refused coronavirus testing at them all — was highlighted in a Free Press story published Sunday.

Cheryl Fowler seemed to be improving, her eldest son said. She came off the ventilator after a few days, and was discharged from the hospital on April 11.

But, said Gambrell: "My mom, she’s never really been back to 100% since she’s been home from the hospital."

He explained that she needed supplemental oxygen and was still coughing and complained of back pain.

"She took her medicine, and it kind of went away," said Gambrell, a 33-year-old business owner from Detroit. "But two days later, she developed a little fever. She took Tylenol, but her oxygen levels started dropping.

"We kept an eye on her. I called the doctor, told the doctor she was complaining of chest pain, and her oxygen was dropping, and he told us to bring her back because it could be something with her heart."

Fowler was readmitted Tuesday night to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, her son said, on what would have been her 24th wedding anniversary.

"She has double pneumonia and she developed a blood clot in her lung, which explains the pressure she was feeling in her back."

Blood clots appear to be a growing concern for coronavirus patients.

Published case reports of COVID-19 patients in the U.S., China and the Netherlands suggest some have developed a multitude of small blood clots, Stat News reported, and they can be fatal.

As many as 7 out of 10 patients who died of COVID-19 had small blood clots throughout the bloodstream, according to a report from China, compared with fewer than 1 in 100 people who survived.

Broadway star Nick Cordero's wife, Amanda Kloot, posted to Instagram about his ordeal with COVID-19. His right leg was amputated because of blood clots that weren't resolved with blood thinners.

Some studies suggest COVID-19 can cause organs to fail as well, causing damage to the kidneys, the liver and heart of some patients.

Gambrell said he's been reading the research about COVID-19, and it worries him.

So far, he said his mother hasn't needed to go back on a ventilator, and he's been video chatting with her in the hospital.

But he worries, too, about how she's doing emotionally after so much loss and heartache.

"She’s not the type of person to let you know something’s bothering her," Gambrell said. "I catch her crying, though, when I'm just talking to her. She’s not taking it too good at all."

He said the family has been touched by the outpouring of support from the community. His mom, he said, hasn't worked in weeks. She's a food service worker at Parcells Middle School.

His sister has created a GoFundMe to help cover the costs of medical expenses not covered by insurance, Gambrell said.