Hometown Hero, Mary Milligan found the utmost joy in serving others, even during their most vulnerable moments. When patients were suffering, Respiratory Therapist, Milligan was their beacon of hope. After working countless months treating patients with COVID-19, she contracted the virus.

Even as someone diagnosed with Asthma and Diabetes, she chose to continue working with patients with the infectious disease. Milligan recently died of COVID-19, but her legacy as an influential caregiver and exceptional community member will continue to carry on.

Mary Milligan was a Working Woman

Milligan was a working woman. She was employed as a Respiratory Therapist for more than 25 years. She spent most of her days at Ascension All Saints, 3801 Spring Street, Racine. When she wasn’t there, she was working at either Aurora Sinai Medical Center, 945 N 12th Street, Milwaukee, or at Aurora West Allis Medical Center, 8901 West Lincoln Avenue, West Allis.

Her daughter, Sara Folk, says “at one point, she worked 63 nights in a row.” Most of the patients she saw were diagnosed with COVID-19. There was no stopping Milligan. She wanted to help. While her family was hesitant about her working with patients with such an easily transmittable condition, Milligan didn’t give a second thought of where she would be. In true heroic fashion, she served patients with only the intent to put them first.

She knew the risks, she knew she could potentially get COVID-19. To her, serving her patients to her best ability was worth it.

Facing COVID-19

Mary Milligan shaved her head in honor of a co-worker who was battling an illness.

In early December, Mary Milligan was diagnosed with COVID-19 along with her daughter and granddaughter. The three were determined to get back to health together. However, Milligan’s symptoms were so severe that they couldn’t be managed at home.

Folk says, “When her temperature was over 102°F, I knew she had to go to the Emergency room. I could no longer give her the care she needed.”

As a Respiratory Therapist, she was well aware of her health status and how the virus was impacting her body. She originally was an inpatient at Ascension All Saints. She was transferred to Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin at the beginning of the new year when her condition advanced.

Towards the end of Milligan’s fight with COVID-19, her family was called to the hospital to see her. Folk says, “she was in good spirits, but you could see that it took everything in her body to breathe. At this time she was on a bi-pap machine, but continuing to tell us that she was going to keep fighting.”

Milligan faced COVID-19 with the same grit that made her who she was as a Respiratory Therapist. The same day that Folk saw her mother is the same day that Milligan was intubated. It was hours after their visit. The harsh reality that this mother, coworker, friend, and community member will never return to the life she once lived.

Mary Milligan and her grandchildren

Mary Milligan left a Legacy

While Milligan is no longer here, her legacy lives on. Shortly after the devastating news, fellow employees at Ascension All Saints rallied together to show their support to Milligan’s family. One moment, in particular, stood out to Milligan’s family.

The fellow employees retrieved her belongings including her stethoscope. Further, the other respiratory therapists put her stethoscope into a shadow box and gave it to Milligan’s family. This positively struck a chord with Folk.

The hospital staff knew it would be meaningful to the family, but little did they know it would serve as motivation for Milligan’s granddaughter. Mariessa Folk, a senior at Horlick High School has plans to pursue a career in healthcare. When she completes her degree, related to the medical field, this stethoscope will be given to her.

Mariessa Folk is determined to carry on the legacy that her grandmother created. The story that she created isn’t finished yet. Her heroism has left an impact on Racine.

Milligan Inspires Faith in the Future

COVID-19 is a fight that Milligan was so determined to win. She might not be on the frontlines any longer, but she was full of advice and encouragement even until her last breath. Milligan was unable to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but her faith is in it.

If she were here, she would promote:

  • Talking to a healthcare professional about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine when readily available
  • Wearing a mask
  • Socially distancing
  • Seeking medical attention when needed for COVID-19

More Details

To read more about Mary Milligan, view her obituary here. Additionally, there has been a Go-fund-me set up for the family. It was created to alleviate medical costs and expenses. View the fundraiser here.

Read about other Racine County Eye Hometown Heroes by clicking here.

Healthcare workers like Mary Milligan are heroes to the Racine community. If there is a healthcare worker who you know that has gone above and beyond, nominate them.

Click here to nominate a Healthcare Hero. Share your story on Racine County Eye and thank a hero. Check out other stories of heroism, by clicking here.

Contact Emma Widmar at ewidmar@racinecountyeye.com for more information about the series.


Rating: 5 out of 5.
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