‘She really had no medical reason to make it through this,’ father Ed Milam says
By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
CDCR Construction Supervisor II Ed Milam received a phone call with news no parent wants to hear – his 23-year-old daughter Jessica had been gravely injured during the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas.
He received the call less than an hour after the Oct. 1 shooting that resulted in 59 deaths and injured hundreds more.
Jessica, a Disneyland employee, was finally released from a Las Vegas hospital Nov. 4, more than a month after she was shot in the abdomen. The bullet damaged her kidney and liver, requiring her to undergo a blood transfusion, dialysis and emergency surgery. Doctors also found shrapnel in her lungs.
For the first week, she was on life support in the hospital’s intensive care unit in Las Vegas.
Milam started his CDCR career in 1996 and works under CDCR Facilities Planning, Construction and Management.
Inside CDCR waited until she was released from the hospital before catching up with him by phone to check on Jessica’s progress.
“It was shocking to get that phone call. It was unreal,” he recalled. “I had been in Alaska for a week and I knew she was making that trip to Vegas. I sent Jessica a text the Friday night before that happened to tell her to be careful and be aware of her surroundings. I had only been home from Alaska for about 10 hours when I got that phone call.”
Asleep when the call came in, it left him shaken.
“I was shocked and numb from wondering what’s going on,” he said.
He’s thankful for the amount of information they were provided early in the process. Many other families reported waiting for hours or a few days before they knew what was happening, due to the large number of people injured and killed that night.
“When we got the initial phone call, there was a lot of information. We knew she had been shot, there was a shooting at this concert, she had been transported to a hospital and was going into surgery,” he said. “We got a lot of information in that initial call that others didn’t necessarily get. We got a phone call in the early morning hours that she was out of surgery and was stable.”
He and his wife headed to Las Vegas, thanks to some help from a farm contractor in Sanger who had a private plane. They packed light, not realizing the extent of Jessica’s injuries or how long she would be in the hospital. Once there, they knew they would be in Las Vegas much longer than expected.
Milam knew they were going to need transportation. After a phone call, a CDCR coworker jumped in to help.
“Luis DeCastro, a Construction Supervisor I at Corcoran, was at my house within an hour and loaded up my pickup into a trailer and delivered it to me in Las Vegas,” he said.
On Oct. 4, the family was told her chances were grim and they tried to prepare themselves for the worst.
“Exactly one month before she was released from the hospital, we were told she probably wasn’t going to make it,” Milam said.
Today, she’s on the mend.
“She’s doing well. She’s had a couple of follow-up visits from a physician and lung specialist from Central California,” Milam said. “This lung specialist who had never seen the case looked all through the X-rays at the time from Nevada. He said he was amazed she even lived and had all this normal function. She obviously has some scarring in her lungs. It looks like we really got away with one over there.”
According to Milam, his daughter will probably be able to return to work in the next few months.
“There has been so much aid and prayer and support, I’d like to thank anybody who did anything in support of us during this time,” he said. “It’s just my sincere thanks. Given her story and situation, had her parents not been there and there had not been so much overwhelming prayer, I don’t think she would have lived.”
As his family sits down to Thanksgiving dinner this month, he knows the outcome could have been much worse for Jessica.
“She really had no medical reason,” he said, “to make it through this.”