By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
In a time of need, the community has rallied behind a large family new to Oxford. “It solidified my view of the Oxford community at large,” said John Fowler, who moved here with his family in January. “It really is a community that looks out for its people and comes together when there’s a time of need. It’s been very heartfelt.”
John’s wife, Elizabeth, 39, was admitted to the hospital with COVID pneumonia Oct. 3. As her condition worsened, she was intubated a week later and flown to the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, where she is still on a ventilator and undergoing ECMO treatment. (ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, supports the heart and lungs by drawing blood out of the body through 1-inch tubes, removing the CO2, re-oxygenating it, then pumping it back in.)
It has been hard on the family over the last eight weeks, with seven kids, ages 2-13, and John working fulltime as an ER nurse at McLaren Oakland in Pontiac. “It’s been very stressful,” John said. “Our church and community have been very helpful with providing meals every few days, taking care of the house, helping the kids get to school.”
There have been more emotional outbursts than usual with the kids missing their mom. His five-year-old daughter is most vocal about it. “Bedtime is hard because mom’s not there. So, there’s a lot of sitting in her room, just kind of holding her arm and letting her fall asleep.”
Roger Hurst, a friend of the family who coached their second-oldest daughter, Sarah, on a softball team, heard about the situation from another team member. He told Dan Sullivan, the Oxford Parks and Recreation supervisor who oversees athletic programs, and he agreed to help organize a fundraiser on behalf of the Oxford Softball Club to help the family offset some costs.
Sullivan coordinated a bowling event Sunday, Nov. 14, with Collier Lanes bowling alley in Oxford Township. Roger and his wife, Cathy, publicized the event, while Amie von Knorring solicited raffle items. “I felt like it was something we needed to do as a community, as a program,” Roger said. “I just tried to pull as many people together as I could that knew the family.”
A special thanks to Oxford Domino’s, for donating 20 pizzas for the event, extra pizzas for the family and coupons for the raffle. Other raffle items included an autographed football from the Detroit Lions, an autographed baseball picture from the Detroit Tigers, gift certificates from Urban Air, 5-1 Diner, Sick Pizza and Woodchips.
An estimated 60-70 bowlers participated. “It was a fun time,” Sullivan said. “It was good to see people get together and help out one of our fellow softball players in their time of need.”
They raised $1,360. “It wasn’t a huge amount,” Roger said, “just hopefully something to help them get through the holidays.”
The check comes in addition to $11,430 raised by a GoFundMe crowd sourcing campaign organized by Elizabeth’s sister, Katharine Szulborski of Ortonville. John has medical insurance through work, but he’s not sure how the medical bills will turn out, since intensive care treatment can cost thousands of dollars a day.
Elizabeth is slowly improving. “She’s still really sick,” John said, “but her lung volume has improved greatly. There’s a chance she might get woken up in the next few days as they have been able to reduce sedation. But she’s still having issues with blood pressure, her heart and lungs, so it’s an ongoing struggle.”
In recent days she had a negative, a positive, and then another negative COVID-19 test. She needs three negative tests in a row to be considered clear of COVID.
Not all reactions to their situation have been so charitable. John had to make their Facebook profiles private after receiving “hate and animosity” in connection to the GoFundMe, since Elizabeth is not vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“It’s sad,” John said, “that if somebody has a view different than yours, people feel like they have to attack them and be hateful and just say really foul things. It’s just frustrating because we’re legitimately needing help and these people are laughing at us.”
John spent much of the pandemic as travel nurse, helping out ERs in Missouri, Massachusetts and Grand Blanc. The family moved to Oxford from Georgia so they could be closer to Elizabeth’s family and to have extra help with the kids while John was out working.
The online fundraiser is at gofundme.com/f/elizabeths-medical-bills-and-financial-needs.
By James Hanlon