STATEN ISLAND, NY – Doctors and nurses are rightfully receiving recognition for their life-saving role in the fight against COVID-19, but unsung heroes as essential healthcare workers on the front lines of patient care and actively involved in the long and grueling behind the battle scenes sometimes go unnoticed.
Caregivers, dietitians, environmental services workers, those who ensure the availability of personal protective equipment – and countless others – have played an important role, as have those in medical triage and admissions and those who select patients and take vital signs.
Rosa Ortiz-Pesantez, an Ecuadorian immigrant and environmental services staff member at Staten Island University Hospital, is a good example.
An integral part of the Housekeeping Department at Ocean Breeze Hospital, Rosa was responsible for maintaining a sterile environment in high-risk areas and regularly kept surfaces clean to prevent infections and ensure the safety of hospital staff and patients.
A frontline worker since the very beginning of the pandemic, the Tompkinsville resident has worked long hours, sacrificing her own health and that of her family to meet her obligations.
There were times when she spent the night in the hospital, worked double shifts and at the height of the pandemic she often worked seven days a week.
In fact, Rosa’s daughter, Daniela Demuth, also a frontline worker and nurse at Staten Island University Hospital, also worked long hours – first as a unit clerk while attending nursing school and now , after earning her degree in nursing during the pandemic, as a registered nurse.
There were times when the mother and daughter duo worked side by side in the hospital during the early days when the coronavirus was first detected in the United States.
Rosa has always been a survivor. She immigrated with her family from Ecuador and was a fighter who beat breast and lung cancer.
But just over a week ago, after a brief attack of pancreatitis, she succumbed to complications from the disease. She leaves behind a legacy of kindness, unconditional love, wisdom and strength.
“She was a fighter, a survivor of breast and lung cancer,” said her niece, Carla Ortiz Arroyo. “She was a strong force who lovingly cared for her mother and sister.”
“She was a woman with an extreme understanding of the cards that were dealt to her,” added Rosa’s brother, Eddie Ortiz. “Yet as a single mother, she never flinched when she left her comfort zone in her native Ecuador to start a life in a different society in a different land, where, like millions of immigrants before her, she had to withstand all the difficulties that the different culture and the different language. And yet, she managed to build a life for herself and her only child with her bare hands, finally realizing the American dream.
ROSA LIVED THE AMERICAN DREAM
Rosa became an American citizen in 2010, as did her daughter, Daniela Demuth, a few years later. Daniela would later marry Louis Demuth, a city firefighter and they are now parents to five-month-old Savannah.
“She was dedicated and always dependable in her workplace,” Daniela said. “She was the rock of her family and was the most selfless woman I have ever met and a wonderful daughter to her mother, Carmen Ortiz and a big sister to Azucena Ortiz. And she knew the meaning of hard work and never took a sick day until the very end, when her condition worsened and she lost her battle.
ROSA’S EARLY LIFE
Rosa was born to Carmen and Jacinto Ortiz in Quito, Ecuador. She obtained a degree in public accounting as an auditor and started working at the Ecuadorian Social Security Institute for 20 years. During this time, her daughter Daniela was born.
Keen to travel, her love of the unknown led her to explore new lands. And it was on one such occasion while visiting her brother, Cesar Ortiz, in New York that she fell in love with the Big Apple.
In 1989, she decided to uproot her life and immigrate to the United States with her daughter for a brand new start to live the American dream and give her daughter a chance at a better life.
His brother, a Staten Island entrepreneur who died of COVID-19 in April 2020, served as his godfather.
“Her smile, her wise words and her tranquility, but above all her charm was larger than life and that is what we will forever hold in our hearts,” Daniela continued. “She was our hub, our center and, for some of us, our confidante. We all contacted her and she kept us informed of family events.
Rosa’s favorite hobbies were knitting, sewing and crafts. But above all, she was a mother, a daughter, a sister, a grandmother, an aunt, a devoted friend and an honorable and honest woman.
Besides her daughter, Daniela Demuth, son-in-law, Louis Demuth, granddaughter, Savannah Demuth, her mother, Carmen Ortiz, her sister, Azucena Ortiz, her brothers Gerardo Ortiz, Eugenio Ortiz and Eddy Ortiz, Rosa is survived by nieces and nephews . She was predeceased by her father, Jacinto Ortiz, and her brother, Cesar Ortiz.