Health

Oprah Winfrey’s ‘The Color of Care’ documentary features Michigan man

Keith Gambrell wears a pair of gold teddy bear pendants around his neck that contain the ashes of his father and grandfather, lost early in the pandemic to the coronavirus.

Gambrell took his dad, Gary Fowler, to hospital after hospital over the course of several days in the spring of 2020 as his breathing grew more and more labored.

Fowler was never given a coronavirus test — even though he couldn’t breathe and even though he’d been in close contact with his father, David Fowler, who had tested positive, and was hospitalized.

Gary Fowler ended up back at his house in Grosse Pointe Woods, where he died April 7, 2020 while sitting in his favorite blue recliner beside the love of his life.

Gary Fowler, pictured right, and his father, David Fowler, pictured left, both died in April 2020 of COVID-19. The younger Fowler got sick in late March and went to several hospitals when he started to have shortness of breath. All turned him away. He died sitting on the recliner of his home in Grosse Pointe Woods on April 7.

More:Family ravaged by coronavirus begged for tests, hospital care, but was repeatedly denied

More:Opinion: Health equity in Michigan: Making progress, but still miles to go

Scrawled on a piece of paper beside him was a note that said: “Heart beat irregular… oxygen level low.” He was 56 years old.

Gambrell first told the Detroit Free Press the story of his family’s struggle to obtain medical care. The account was also published in USA Today, and that is where Oprah Winfrey saw it and was stirred to action.

“I was haunted by the words of the story and that picture,” Winfrey said of Gambrell, who was photographed staring through the window of his northwest Detroit home. “In the middle of the night, I woke up thinking about that.”

Keith Gambrell, of Detroit, is seen in a window of his house while in quarantine with COVID-19 symptoms on Friday, April 10, 2020. Gambrell lost his grandfather and stepfather to COVID-19. His mother was admitted to Henry Ford Hospital and needed a ventilator.

More:Report: Michigan improves COVID-19 racial disparities, but more work is needed

More:America forgot about my dad’s death. Don’t let that happen to Floyd, Arbery and Taylor.

The story, she said, humanized and laid bare the racial disparities playing out in a pandemic that has continued to ravage Black and brown communities, disproportionately sickening people of color and taking their lives.

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