By Emily Drooby
Last March, Elmhurst Hospital faced “apocalyptic” conditions. They were overwhelmed by COVID patients pouring in – stretchers filled the hallways as fear – and the virus – filled the air.
Some days – more people died than they had room for in the morgue.
A year later, a new leader has been tapped to help the hospital learn from its past and grow: a local Catholic woman, Helen Arteaga Landaverde.
She has first-hand experience – she was a COVID patient there.
“I feel like God had a plan,” Helen said. “God was like, ‘You’re going to go through these dark days Helen, but at the end it’s going to help you in such a way that you’re going to take this hospital and community to a new future.’”
Now, she’s got plans for the hospital, requesting $30 million for upgrades and repairs.
“I have so many dreams for this hospital,” she told Currents News. “One of them is to improve our technology, improve our equipment, get more providers to come here.
Helen tells Currents News as she starts to work on these big changes, she will be relying heavily on her faith.
“Every step where I have felt, ‘Oh I can’t take a step more, my faith has come in and said, ‘Yes you can.’”
She’s a long-time parishioner of Our Lady of Sorrows in Corona, Queens, and went to their Catholic academy.
The church’s pastor, Father Manuel de Jesus Rodriguez, describes Helen as a pillar of the church and the community.
“Faith has always been a defining value in both her family and her story,” he explained.
Recently, they congratulated and thanked her publicly.
Helen’s drive to help others came from tragedy – the loss of her father in 1998.
“And I would hear his voice, over and over again, ‘Helen you can’t fix the world, but you can fix this one block,’” she recalled.
Sp, she opened Plaza del Sol, a community health care center that helps everyone – whether they can afford it or not.
“That clinic is an angel, a life-saving angel here in Corona,” said Fr. Manuel.
Now Helen’s ready for her next step – continuing to make her father proud and help others.
“Plaza del Sol helped me fix that block, and Elmhurst Hospital is my next block.”
Helen says she’s excited to continue to fight to make sure everyone – no matter their race, their immigration status, or their net worth – has good healthcare.