Longtime Henry Ford nurse dies after testing positive for COVID-19

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Saturday would have been Lisa Ewald's 54th birthday. 

Ewald, a longtime registered nurse with Henry Ford Health System, died in her Dearborn home Tuesday after telling family and friends she tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Lisa Ewald was a registered nurse for more than 20 years.

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."

Ewald loved animals and people. She loved to garden and all things Harry Potter, but most of all she loved caring for others, her niece said.

"Her neighbor's dog was really sick at one point and she went and hooked him up to an IV four times a day and nursed him back to health," Standifer Farmer said. "Her smile was so contagious, you couldn’t be around her and not want to smile. We lost our grandmother (her mother) in December and even then she was doing everything she could to keep a smile on peoples faces even though you knew it was killing her."

She is leaving behind a sister, eight nieces and four nephews.

"Even though she had no kids of her own we knew she loved us just the same," her niece said.

Ewald had been a registered nurse for more than 20 years and was serving at Henry Ford Hospital's main campus in Detroit. She was graduated from Inter City Baptist High School in Allen Park and studied at Clemson University before getting her nursing degree at Bob Jones University in 1989.

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." 

As of Saturaday, Henry Ford Health System has 679 patients currently admitted to multiple hospitals with the coronavirus, the majority placed at its Detroit campus, where Ewald served.

The healthcare system said 4,788 patients have tested negative, 3,018 have tested positive. 

"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."

Lisa Ewald, left, with her friend and Juleen Woods Miller, right.

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.

"Never take the special people in your life for granted," she said.

Lisa Ewald, right, and her mother, Marian Kraatz, left.


Twitter: @SarahRahal_