Lisa Ewald, a 54-year-old nurse who worked at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, died alone at home after telling friends and family she’d tested positive for COVID-19.
She will be remembered as a passionate patient advocate, a matriarch who boosted early morning morale by cracking jokes and wasn’t afraid to ruffle feathers, Ewald is believed to be one of the first known healthcare workers in Michigan to die from complications related to the virus.
CREDIT PHOTO COURTESY OF AUBREE FARMER
Ewald told neighbors that she believed she was exposed to the coronavirus via a patient around March 24 while working in the emergency room, Michigan Radio reported.
Neighbor Alexis Fernandez said Ewald immediately tried to get herself tested, but was told by her employer she couldn’t until she showed symptoms.
Her niece, Aubree Standifer Farmer, told The Detroit News Saturday she wished people would stay home for all of the doctors and nurses that are on the front lines fighting the pandemic. She said her aunt died doing what she loved.
“She was such a caring compassionate person, talking to people she worked with they called themselves blessed to know her,” said Standifer Farmer, originally from Clinton Township. “I was truly blessed that God put her in our family. I know she wouldn’t want us to be bitter she would want us to love and to learn, so please learn from those who are hurting right now, those who can’t even properly say goodbye because of the quarantine laws.”
With the current state orders, the family will only have five members at her burial. They plan on having a celebration of her life when things get back to normal, they said.
“She believed she caught the virus from someone who came in with chest pains so she was denied the chance to wear a mask, after that she asked twice to be tested and was refused testing until she started showing symptoms,” Standifer Farmer said. “She also had asthma.”
Wright Lassiter, III, president and CEO of HFHS, said there are no “adequate words to describe how saddened we are.”
“Our hearts ache for our employee’s family, friends and colleagues,” Lassiter said in a statement. “As healthcare providers on the frontlines of this pandemic, we know we are not immune to its traumatic effects.”
“We continue to fight with every resource we have to protect our employees and provide the safest care to our patients,” said Lassiter, who couldn’t disclose anything about the employee. “Regarding employee testing, we adhere strictly to CDC guidelines. Currently, the CDC recommends testing employees only when they become symptomatic. Whether at work or at home under self-isolation, if an employee begins experiencing symptoms, they are urged to contact Employee Health and arrange for immediate testing.
“Meantime, we strongly urge anyone who is at home with symptoms to go to their nearest emergency room immediately if symptoms worsen, including a rising fever, uncontrolled cough or respiratory problems.”
Juleen Woods Miller said she’s still in shock after losing her best friend to the virus.
“She was the best person,” Miller wrote in a tribute on Facebook. “Could always make me smile. Made me get out of my comfort zone at times. I am still in shock that she’s actually not here to shoot a text to or say ‘hey want to get breakfast with me?’ I loved her so much.”
Miller said the only silver lining was that Ewald and her late mother, Marian Kraatz, in heaven. Family and friends say Ewald and her mother loved to travel together.