Nurse with local roots heads to Elmhurst

ICU Critical Care Nurse Sheila Milanov says she couldn't stand by and listen to the words, 'died alone in isolation.' She's now headed to the front lines at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens.

Posted: Apr 7, 2020 8:13 AM
Updated: Apr 7, 2020 8:25 AM

ICU Critical Care and Hospice Registered Nurse Sheila Milanov is headed north from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to Oneida County eventually. But first, this nurse must make a three-month stop at what's been dubbed the epicenter of the epicenter of the Coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

Starting on April 13, Milanov will spend 13 weeks at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens working 48-hour work weeks.

What prompted her to answer this call?

"Died alone in isolation," Milanov said. "We know this Covid-19 is highly infectious. Families aren't permitted to be there. If I am there I refuse to let anyone be alone becuase no one deserves that, so at the very least they'll have a gloved hand in theirs."

Her gloved  hand will be a comfort to patients at Elmhurst in Queens. Queens has 1.5 hospital beds per 1,000 patients, compared to 5.3 in Manhattan. Public hospitals, like this one often lack resources of parallel non-public hospitals.

At the height of the virus outbreak, media reported at one point 13 patients died at Elmhurst in a 24-hour period.

Milanov admits she's scared. Her family is scared too.

"The risk is there whether you are on the front lines or not," she said. "It's just jumping in both feet to the belly of the beast and knowing I am taking every precaution i can take."

She tells us, "I am prepared to be trying to save a life one minute and hold a hand the next."

Governor Andrew Cuomo has urgently appealed for medical workers to work in New York City and downstate as the crisis unfold. 

Milanov's background in ICU Critical Care and Hospice are a combination that put empathy together with the ability to work calmly in a crisis situation.

The 13 weeks at Elmhurst are a stop in a journey home to Central New York to be closer to her family. While it wasn't originally planned this way, Sheila's drive and gravitation to helping others made it a necessary stop. 

"Before I made the decision to go, I mentioned it to by husband, and I mentioned it to the kids," she said. " They are all fearful, rightfully so, but very supportive. Family means the most, especially at a time like this."

Her husband has been in Upstate New York since Thanksgiving. Much of her family lives in Lee Center.

"We are making those transitional steps to get be back where I belong."

Milanov has a message to her family.

"I love you guys. Thank you for being my support, and thank you for being the light in the dark place for me."

We will also check in with Milanov to ensure she's safe and to get a glimpse at her expectations in this deployment as well as the reality of what she sees when she's there.

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 375133

Reported Deaths: 30174
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