The children of a 55-year-old Florida woman say the hospital treating their mother for COVID-19 told her and them that she would be treated with ivermectin. However, the treatment was stopped after she improved because a hospital pharmacist intervened, medical records show.
Dianne Spangler, of Titusville, worsened after the ivermectin was stopped early. She was put on a ventilator and died, medical records obtained by The Epoch Times show.
What’s more, Spangler received the COVID-19 drug remdesivir even after she and her children had expressed they didn’t want her to be treated with it, according to records and Spangler’s daughter, Megan Spangler.
Making the loss even more painful for Spangler’s three children—ages 32, 23, and 15—is knowing what has happened to the nurse who had advocated for the use of ivermectin on their behalf.
Donna Lowery, who had worked at Parrish Medical Center for 31 years, was fired for suggesting the drug, and the hospital has urged the state of Florida to revoke her license.
“Federal patient privacy laws prevent us from commenting on the specifics of any patient-related matters,” Parrish Healthcare’s senior vice president, Natalie Sellers, said in a statement. “What I can confirm is that COVID-19 patients receiving care at Parrish Medical Center receive appropriate treatment in accordance with evidence-based medical protocols using FDA approved medicines as medically necessary and consistent with the indicated standard of care.”
Doctors nationwide have told The Epoch Times they’ve used ivermectin to treat patients with COVID-19, often by following the protocols developed by the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC). Doctors with experience using the treatment have testified to its efficacy and safety before Congress and state legislatures. The legislatures of Tennessee, New Hampshire, and Kansas are currently considering bills that would allow, or even require, pharmacists to dispense ivermectin to people who ask for it.
Yet physicians across the country have told The Epoch Times they fear losing their licenses for advocating for the use of ivermectin and other drugs that aren’t part of the COVID-19 treatment protocols outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Hospitals receive payments under the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act when they follow the protocols.
Some doctors have told The Epoch Times they’ve received threatening letters from professional boards and malpractice providers that warn against speaking about COVID-19 treatments or vaccines in a way that could be considered “misinformation” or “disinformation.” The American Medical Association, the American Pharmacists Association, and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) have issued such statements.
In Lowery’s case, most concerning to her is the NCSBN’s Dec. 2 statement that addresses “misinformation being disseminated about COVID-19 by nurses.”
It reads: “Providing misinformation to the public regarding masking, vaccines, medications and/or COVID-19 threatens the public health. Misinformation, which is not grounded in science and is not supported by the CDC and FDA, can lead to illness, possibly death, and may prolong the pandemic.
“Any nurse who violates their state nurse practice act or threatens the health and safety of the public through the dissemination of misleading or incorrect information pertaining to COVID-19, vaccines and associated treatment through verbal or written methods including social media may be disciplined by their board of nursing.
“Nurses are urged to recognize that dissemination of misinformation not only jeopardizes the health and well-being of the public, but may place their license and career in jeopardy as well.”
The NCSBN declined to comment to The Epoch Times, and directed inquiries to the Florida Board of Nursing.
Nurses and doctors in Florida don’t have to worry about having their licenses stripped simply for speaking what they believe about COVID-19 treatments or prevention, said Jeremy Redfern, spokesman for the Florida Department of Health, which oversees the Florida Board of Nursing. That’s because members of the boards that govern the licenses in Florida are appointed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, he said.
“I don’t think DeSantis is going to appoint anyone who doesn’t respect the [U.S.] Constitution,” Redfern said. “The Department of Health and our medical boards respect the First Amendment” and the free speech it guarantees, he said.
“Speech does not constitute a reason to strip someone of their license.”
Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo told The Epoch Times in February, “We’re definitely not going after anyone for prescribing ivermectin.”
State policies prohibit Redfern from confirming any state investigation of a medical professional, until after there’s been a determination of probable cause, he said. Lowery knows that an investigation of her was initiated, because former colleagues were interviewed, she said. She hasn’t been notified officially, she said.
DeSantis has argued publicly that doctors and nurses shouldn’t have to fear using their clinical experience to talk about or even prescribe what they think is best for patients.
The governor asked Florida’s Republican-led legislature to create a new law to protect health care workers’ freedom of speech under the U.S. Constitution. The bill died in committee.
Since her firing, Lowery has worked as a lactation consultant and at an independent pharmacy. She worries she might not be able to work as a nurse again.
She told her story to the Florida House Health and Human Services Committee on Nov. 15.
When Lowery was still employed at the hospital, she’d seen an Aug. 26 memo from her employer addressing, among other things, the use of ivermectin for COVID-19 patients.
“According to the FDA, ivermectin is not an anti-viral and should not be used to treat or prevent COVID-19,” the memo to employees stated. “Ivermectin tablets are approved at specific doses for some parasitic worms and when taken in large doses can be dangerous and cause serious harm.”
Lowery said she didn’t view it as a formal policy of the hospital because she knew of at least one patient who’d been treated with ivermectin. Additionally, a link in the memo led to a web page that suggested ivermectin was little more than livestock dewormer, which she knew was incorrect.
A handful of her family members—some with conditions that made them more at-risk for serious COVID-19 infections—had used ivermectin to treat COVID-19.
After her daughter, a respiratory therapist, had told her about miraculous recoveries using ivermectin, she researched the drug and spoke with other medical professionals who were using it. Ultimately, Lowery and others in her family took a livestock formulation of ivermectin hoping to prevent the infection throughout the pandemic.
On Sept. 5, she reported to work on the floor where she helped deliver babies, after praying on the way, as always, that God would put her where he wanted her to be that day. The obstetrics unit wasn’t busy, so she was moved to another floor to help with COVID-19 patients.
There, Lowery saw a colleague crying at the nurses’ station. The young nursing assistant had just been told by a doctor that if her mother, Dianne Spangler, didn’t improve, she’d have to go on a ventilator.
Spangler had been in the hospital a week. Hospital records show she had “multifocal pneumonia.”
“Why don’t we use ivermectin?” Lowery wondered aloud, when the young woman excused herself to splash water on her face, and a doctor joined the group of nurses.
The doctor, Lowery said, chimed in, “Yeah, why don’t we?”
Looking back on that moment, Lowery said, “I did not ask for something we had not already used in the hospital.”
Lowery and two other nurses went to console their co-worker, and Lowery asked if her mom had been taking ivermectin. She had not.
After hearing about Lowery’s experiences with ivermectin, the colleague “said she wanted it for her mom,” Lowery said.
The four ladies acknowledged to each other that all were Christians. They bowed their heads to pray together before taking further action.
“That’s the most important part of this whole story,” Lowery said.
Lowery then sought out the doctor caring for Dianne Spangler and said she was speaking for their colleague.
“What do you know about ivermectin?” she asked the doctor.
“I used it in my previous hospital,” she said he told her. “It doesn’t always work, and I don’t know if we have it here.”
So Lowery called the pharmacist, who confirmed that ivermectin was available.
“But it doesn’t work for COVID,” the pharmacist told Lowery.
“It does,” Lowery insisted, telling about her family members’ experiences.
The doctor overseeing the treatment of all COVID-19 patients would have to approve it, the pharmacist told Lowery.
Lowery and the charge nurse went to find the doctor. With the pharmacist listening to the conversation by phone, that doctor also agreed that ivermectin could be used for Spangler, Lowery said. A third doctor put an order for the drug into the computer.
“I went to the co-worker and said, ‘Your mom can have ivermectin,’” Lowery said. “She was so excited. She was crying.”
“So that was all I did. I advocated. That’s what nurses do. We advocate.”
Megan Spangler remembers the hope she felt when her sister, who’s still employed at Parrish Medical Center, called from the hospital and told her about the opportunity to try ivermectin to treat their mother.
“I said, ‘Yes, 100 percent! At this point, I will do anything, I want to try anything!’” Megan Spangler said. “And so she went into the room with my mom, and told my mom, and my mom said, ‘Yes, I want ivermectin!’ So they went and got it.”
Medical records confirm that the family requested the ivermectin, discussed the treatment with Spangler’s doctor, and were told it would be administered. Records also stated: “Did explain to them that studies so far have shown that ivermectin is not helpful in COVID patients and has not been recommended as treatment by CDC,” and “patient was agreeable with the plan.”
What was ordered for Dianne Spangler was only about half the dose needed, said Dr. Ed Balbona of Jacksonville, who reviewed her medical records with permission from her family. Balbona has used ivermectin to treat about 400 patients with COVID-19; none have died, he said.
With some minor changes, Balbona largely follows protocols developed by Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance.
Even receiving just a half-dose of ivermectin, Spangler improved, her records show, Balbona said.
She was “feeling good, no shortness of breath in this time frame, was able to eat and move around,” notes in her medical record show.
“When she took the ivermectin, she was able to get up, she was eating, she was able to talk on FaceTime,” Megan Spangler said.
She, her brother, and sister, who asked not to be identified, were overjoyed.
Two days after starting ivermectin, Dianne Spangler’s medical records note, “Patient still requiring high flow oxygen but currently feels okay with no acute shortness of breath. Try to wean off slowly.”
Her children couldn’t understand when her condition declined again. But on Sept. 15, Dianne Spangler was put on a ventilator, and she died on Oct. 11.
Crushed, they requested her records, which revealed that the five-day course of ivermectin they were told she would receive had been canceled by the pharmacist, with the comment, “Not indicated for COVID diagnosis.”
Notes also appeared to show that the drug remdesivir was given from Aug. 30 through Sept. 12, and again on Sept. 15 and 16.
“We didn’t want her to have it,” Megan Spangler said. “My mom didn’t want to have it. My mom wanted the ivermectin. At that time, my sister was the power of attorney. But my mom was also still conscious and aware enough to say, ‘Hey, I want this.’”
Meanwhile, five days after suggesting ivermectin for Spangler, Lowery’s supervisor called her, clearly upset.
“I’m like, ‘What’s going on? Am I getting fired or something?’ just being flippant. I had no clue anything was going on about this whole ivermectin thing,” Lowery said. She had been told Spangler had improved after being started on the drug.
“She said, ‘Donna, you’re suspended.’
“For what?” Lowery remembers demanding.
“For advocating for ivermectin,” she said her supervisor told her.
Two days later, the supervisor called again and said the hospital’s chief nursing officer, Edwin Loftin, also senior vice president of integrated and acute care services, and hospital CEO George Mikitarian, had called for her to turn in her hospital ID. She was being fired.
Almost seven months later, she’s still incredulous.
“Are you kidding me? I advocated!” Lowery says now.
“I’m taking care of you, and let’s say you have chronic pain and you take a particular medication for your chronic pain, and now you’ve had surgery, and they ordered something else for you that you know doesn’t work. That’s my job to call your doctor and say, ‘Hey, so-and-so is requesting this, because she knows that doesn’t work.’ That’s what we do! Imagine! Patient care at a hospital! Imagine that!”
The termination form from the hospital states that Lowery “advocated for a medication to be used directly against FDA regulations and outside her scope of practice. This is cause for immediate termination.”
It goes on to say, “Ms. Lowery’s actions had the potential to cause serious harm and potential death of a patient. As such, she will be reported to AHCA [Agency for Health Care Administration] and the state with request to remove license.”
Using FDA-approved drugs for off-label uses—uses that aren’t specifically approved by the FDA—is part of the everyday practice of medicine, doctors and nurses have told The Epoch Times.
“In labor and delivery, we use medicines [in off-label uses] every day,” Lowery said. “Misoprostol [known by the brand name] Cytotec—that is used to induce labor. If you look up that medication on the CDC or the FDA website, it says, ‘Do not use in pregnant women. Can cause uterine rupture, death to fetus and/or mother.’ We use it every day.”
“And how about the oath we took to do no harm?” Lowery asks.
Lowery said she prays for the two men who ordered her firing and who required strict adherence to CDC and NIH protocols for treating COVID-19.
She doesn’t regret what happened, and she said she believes it was no accident that she was ordered to that floor that day.
“Parrish Medical Center was my mission field,” she said.
Megan Spangler and her sibling have been told it’s nearly impossible to sue a hospital for a case involving COVID-19. And that’s true, attorneys told The Epoch Times.
Twenty-nine states, including Florida, adopted legislation at the urging of the federal government that gave hospitals immunity from lawsuits regarding COVID-19, as long as they followed government guidelines for treating the disease.
In Florida, one such measure was set to expire in March, but was extended for 14 months. That leaves Dianne Spangler’s children wondering if they have any legal grounds for suing the hospital for what they see as their mother’s wrongful death.
For almost 20 years, Dianne Spangler had worked in customer service at the Brevard County Clerk of Court office. There’s a driver’s license program named for her, because of her efforts to help people get revoked driver’s licenses reinstated.
She loved the beach, and loved spending time with family and friends. She reveled in cheering for her teenage son at his basketball and baseball games.
“She was just full of life, and always on the go,” Megan Spangler said.
During her hospitalization, Spangler would keep a brave face for her children during video chats. But to friends, she’d send texts imploring, “Please pray for me.”
Megan Spangler said if doctors felt the ivermectin wasn’t working or that remdesivir should be administered, “none of that was ever told to us. … So we didn’t even have the opportunity to say, ‘OK, but we want to transfer her to another hospital that will give her this.
“I want someone in that hospital held accountable for my mom’s death, because she should be alive today.”