Teacher who survived coronavirus is afraid to go back to classroom during pandemic

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – Stefanie Miller’s coronavirus nightmare isn’t over. The Broward County Public Schools’ teacher is frightened to go back to work, but she needs health insurance to continue her recovery from COVID-19.

Miller was on a ventilator for 21 days at Memorial West Hospital. She underwent blood plasma treatment after searching for a donor in April. When the transfusions didn’t work, she fought for access to Remdesivir.

Persistence and the antiviral medication appeared to have saved her life. Miller, 53, was off the ventilator within days. The Fox Trail Elementary second-grade teacher was discharged and is undergoing physical therapy and speech therapy.

Miller is still dealing with pain, so the recent talk about reopening schools during the pandemic frightened her.

“I really can’t afford not to go back to school, to teaching,” Miller said. “I need the insurance. I need the pay ... We are afraid of going back and catching it. Our immune systems are low as it is ... we are very susceptible to COVID.”

Amid pressure from the federal government to get children back in the classroom, Broward County Public Schools is discussing reopening plans on Tuesday and Miami-Dade County Public Schools is discussing reopening plans on Wednesday.

Miller’s colleague Marcus Cruz teaches fifth-grade students at Fox Trail Elementary. He said he shares her fear because an outbreak at a school is likely to grow into a bigger outbreak in the community. He has been teaching for 32 years.  

“We want to teach. We want to go back and help our kids in our communities but we want to do it in a responsible fashion,” Cruz said.

Miller and Cruz both said they need more training on how to stay safe in the classroom if the reopening happens during the pandemic.

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.