Coronavirus: Pleas for local teacher to get promising drug; hospital says not possible

Memorial West not selected for remdesivir, which has shown some success in COVID-19 patients

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – Family, friends and colleagues of a beloved elementary school teacher are hoping for a miracle for Stefanie Miller. Miller, 53, has been hospitalized since early April as she battles coronavirus.

They are asking that a promising drug, remdesivir, made by a company called Gilead, be administered to her to save her life after plasma transfusions did not work. But at Memorial West, where Miller is being treated, the hospital is not one that was selected by the federal government or Gilead to give her the drug.

"I'm speaking on frustrations, emotions and a plea for one of our colleagues," Anna Fusco, Broward Teachers Union president said. The union represents 18,000 school employees.

Fusco wrote a letter to Aurelio M. Fernandez, the president and chief executive officer, of Memorial Health Care System, asking him for a humanitarian intervention.

"Her condition is deteriorating daily. Plasma donation has not worked to treat her condition. . . her family and her students are desperate for her recovery. As long as this lifesaving option exists, her treatment with it should be aggressively pursued.”

Fusco did get a response from the Fernandez and she tells us it was not what she wanted to hear.

Fernandez responded: “Unfortunately, rules that are being followed by Memorial Regional Hospital are per protocols set forth by Gilead which precludes us from deviating from established clinical trial guidelines.”

Her mother, Faye Fogielgarn, said she’s working with members of Congress to get access to the drug.

Memorial West was not one of the hospitals chosen by the federal government or Gilead. Memorial Regional in Hollywood, is one of them, but not Memorial West.

Miller, a second-grade teacher at Fox Trail Elementary in Davie, was working from her hospital bed up until recently.

She is also a full-time animal advocate who runs two rescue organizations.

The family said they are seeing only slight improvement and doctors are hoping to reduce her sedation to see if she can breathe on her own.

About the Author:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.