Mother-daughter team face the coronavirus together at LIJ-Valley Stream

A mother-daughter duo is working together on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
For the past eight weeks, Paola Rojas, of Franklin Square, has been working tirelessly at LIJ-Valley Stream, not knowing what the next shift will bring. So far 957 COVID-19 patients have been admitted.
"In 21 years of being in this institution and working in the emergency, I never never experienced something like this. There was patients all over the place," says Rojas.
But Rojas isn't alone. Working alongside her in the ER's admissions department is her 27-year-old daughter, Hellene Ballesteros.
The two have been inseparable from the beginning. They feel fortunate to be fighting the virus together.
"Having my mom made it easy in a way, I can say, because if you needed to cry, your mom's there," says Ballesteros. "If you needed to just speak to her about PPE and how to put on the N95 mask, my mom's always been there for me. So I'm always comforted by my mom."
Together, the two do all they can to care for and bring comfort to patients, and along the way have seen unimaginable loss.
"Whether it was a bottle of water, whether it was a blanket, whether it was using my phone, FaceTiming their loved ones. So that's what I did. It was sad," says Rojas.
"When I would see the elderly people come in and they just couldn't breathe ... my tears were just flowing down my face," says Ballesteros. "I just kept thinking this could be my grandmother, this could be my aunt.
While the experience has been scary, Rojas and Ballesteros say working together has strengthened their bond.
"Honestly, my mom is just everything to me," says Ballesteros. "Yeah, she's the best."