Still hospitalized, Las Vegas shooting victim Jessica Milam of Sanger glad to be alive

Jessica Milam in a photo provided by her family. She is shown at the Disney California Adventure Park.
Jessica Milam in a photo provided by her family. She is shown at the Disney California Adventure Park.

A few weeks ago, Ed Milam interrupted a doctor who kept “talking and talking” to ask a pointed question about his daughter, Jessica, who was lying unconscious in a Las Vegas hospital bed.

“Are you sitting here telling me she’s probably not going to make it?”

The doctor’s response: “Yes.”

Despite that harsh assessment, Jessica Milam survived, has endured two stints in intensive care, and is now recovering her strength. She’s scheduled to be released from the hospital as soon as this weekend. It was expected to be Friday, but becauser her white blood cell count was elevated, doctors chose to keep her hospitalized, her father said.

Of the past month, Ed Milam says, “It’s really been a roller coaster.”

Sanger native Jessica Milam is one of just two victims of the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas still hospitalized at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center. A check with several other Las Vegas hospitals revealed only two other shooting victims hospitalized out of the hundreds injured.

Stephen Paddock, a gunman on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas Strip casino, opened fire while country music star Jason Aldean performed at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. Fifty-eight people, including two off-duty police officers, were killed, and 489 were wounded.

A gunman on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas Strip casino opened fire while country music star Jason Aldean was performing Sunday night a the Route 91 Harvest Festival. At least 59 people, including two off-duty police officers, and wounded more than

Jessica Milam spoke publicly with The Bee on Tuesday for the first time since the shooting. She didn’t want to discuss the incident, but confirmed a report that a friend also attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival helped her get to safety after she was shot in the abdomen. Jessica Milam was loaded into a pickup truck and taken to Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center and later transferred to Sunrise.

She underwent surgery to repair damage to her liver. It appeared she was on the road to recovery when her health took a downward turn.

“That Wednesday (after the shooting), we were watching baseball,” Ed Milam recalls. “The doctor came in the room and the next thing I knew, we were in ICU and she was in grave condition with a ventilator.”

It’s really been a roller coaster.

Ed Milam

Jessica Milam’s lungs had filled with blood and fluid from a bullet fragment doctors hadn’t seen. It led to a five-day stint in intensive care, where she lay unconscious connected to tubes that helped her breathe. She was later readmitted to ICU for three days because of internal bleeding after a kidney failure. She had two extensive surgeries and underwent dialysis.

“It’s been interesting, very unreal,” Jessica Milam says of her time in the hospital. “I’m very much ready to be back in Fresno.”

The Milams are hopeful that might happen soon. They’re waiting for her chest tube to be removed, which helps drain liquid from her right lung that is partially collapsed and healing. No more surgeries are planned.

The show of concern has really helped.

Jessica Milam

On Tuesday, Jessica Milam said she was “essentially back to normal” – including being able to walk and eat food. She shared condolences for family and friends of those killed in the shooting, and for others injured.

“I’m really thankful that I was lucky enough to make it out of there alive,” she says.

A group of Jessica Milam’s friends came to visit her in the hospital on Sunday to celebrate her 23rd birthday. They ate cupcakes, opened gifts, watched TV and played games.

“I think that was really huge for her,” Ed Milam says of their visit. “She’s really opened up a lot since they’ve been here.”

After she’s released from the hospital, Jessica Milam will go to her parents’ home in Sanger to continue healing. Ed Milam said Thursday that she doesn’t need to go to a rehabilitation hospital like they previously expected.

Jessica Milam says she wants to eventually return to California State University, Fullerton, where she was majoring in communications. She’s interested in pursuing a career in television production.

The Sanger High School graduate took this semester off to work at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, assisting guests and helping operate attractions. She previously attended Reedley College and formerly worked summer jobs with the Fresno Grizzlies and Walt Disney World.

The Milams are thankful for the outpouring of support they’ve received, including prayer circles and fundraisers to help pay for medical expenses.

“For many days – and still – we went through a really perilous time here,” Ed Milam says. “It got really scary.”

A GoFundMe donation account – Jessica Milam’s Recovery Fund – had raised more than $27,800 as of Wednesday, and a Sanger street fair on Sunday raised more than $10,000. Ed Milam works as a building inspector for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Her mother Maria is an elementary school librarian.

Jessica Milam shared a message of thanks for all who have helped her and her family.

“Thank you for everything,” she says. “Thank you for the support that’s been shown for me. It’s highly appreciated. … The show of concern has really helped.”

Staff writer Barbara Anderson contributed to this report. Carmen George: 559-441-6386, @CarmenGeorge