JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The last time Dawn Fowler heard her grandson, William Fowler, he was struggling to breathe.
William Fowler had been out of jail for less than two weeks when he was admitted to the hospital, complaining of shortness of breath. A week later, he died of complications from the coronavirus. He was 22.
“He was in so much pain,” Dawn Fowler said. “He was literally crying he was in so much pain.”
William Fowler had a history of drug abuse. He was admitted to the drug treatment program inside the Duval County jail after pleading guilty to burglary.
At the point that William Fowler was released, the jail was amid an outbreak of the COVID-19. More than 400 inmates tested positive for the virus. The Duval Health Department said the majority of the inmates who tested positive were asymptomatic.
William Fowler’s family members said they have no idea how he contracted the virus.
“He had been out one week. The morning he woke up sick was one week out,” said Dawn Fowler.“I told him, son, I cannot come over there. I take care of my mother who is 85 and not well, as well as my sister with end stage kidney disease and congestive heart failure. I cannot risk of picking it up and bringing it to them. They wouldn’t stand a chance.”
She continued, “Every day it was worse and every day it was worse. By the third day he couldn’t walk. The early morning of the fourth day, his mom called 911.”
William Fowler tested positive for the coronavirus in the hospital and when doctors completed a chest X-ray, it showed bi-lateral infiltrates with pneumonia. The 22-year-old was transferred to the ICU and intubated, but his health continued to decline, according to his hospital death investigation report.
“He was alone as all the COVID patients are. He died alone – because that’s the nature of the disease,” said Fowler. “He was so scared, and he begged me to please pray for him, and he continued to tell me, Nana, I don’t want to die.”
Dawn Fowler said while she’s afraid that some will judge her grandson’s mistakes and feel his life didn’t mean much, she wants people to understand how much he mattered to her family and how much hope she had in the life he would lead.
“He grew up in Keystone, a small little town, and when he was 15 he moved here to Jacksonville and went to Sandalwood and just, some of the people he met. He got mixed up with the wrong crowd like many teenagers do,” she said. “He meant a lot.”
“I still can’t believe I am never going to see him again. It’s just hard to grasp,” she continued.
A GoFundMe account has been established to help pay for William Fowler’s funeral expenses.
Data from the Medical Examiners Commission of COVID-19-related deaths show other young patients in Northeast Florida who have died of COVID-19 and provides some details about their deaths, including one 34-year-old man who went to a hospital in June and tested positive for COVID-19.
According to the report, the hospital wanted to admit him and put him on a ventilator, but he declined and went home. He was found dead in his bed, within a day.