This is the fourth in a series of profiles on Glendale-area women who recently were honored by Congressman Adam Schiff as his district’s women of the year.
As a labor nurse at Glendale Memorial Hospital, Daisy De La Torre is routinely tasked with assisting patients giving birth — perhaps the most important delivery.
And then, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, she sometimes had to perform what surely was one of the most difficult acts — taking a newborn away from a mother who had the disease. Such was the reality of the pandemic’s initial stages, when little was known about the disease other than it easily killed the most vulnerable and spread chaotically.
“We weren’t sure if moms were going to transmit to their baby,” De La Torre explained in a recent interview. “That was the standard everywhere at the beginning of the pandemic, because COVID wasn’t very well understood. Thankfully, now, they aren’t, because we know more about COVID, but that was definitely scary for moms.”
For shouldering such a task, all while lending compassion to the mothers and helping to track down personal protective equipment for her colleagues, De La Torre recently was named by Congressman Adam Schiff as one of the 2020 women of the year in his congressional district. She was among a significant contingent of health-care workers recognized for their performances in a year derailed by the coronavirus.
“She stepped up to the challenge,” Schiff, a Burbank Democrat who represents Glendale, wrote in his award statement, “working overtime providing kindness, comfort and compassion to those under her care.”
When De La Torre, who grew up and lives in Elysian Valley, joined Glendale Memorial in 2018, she was already familiar with the institution — it was the medical center for her family when she was young.
“My parents actually have their primary care physician there,” she said. “When I got hired at Glendale Memorial, I thought it was funny because I thought, ‘Oh, I used to always come here with my parents, and now I work here.’”
De La Torre started off in cardiac telemetry but was quickly reassigned to labor and delivery, where she remains today. While respecting the difficulty of their situation, she observed that coronavirus-infected mothers were mostly team players when it came to being temporarily separated from their newborns.
“I think moms ultimately understood,” she said. “Their first instinct was ‘I want my baby to be safe,’ so I think while it was really hard for them, I think moms were really understanding of what’s going on.”
Another challenge early in the crisis was the chronic shortage of PPE like face masks, gloves and gowns as well as necessary cleaning and sanitizing chemicals. Thankfully, De La Torre knew the area well, and enlisted local businesses like Wax Paper in Frogtown to donate surgical masks, Suay L.A. Sew Shop in Elysian Valley to produce and donate cloth masks, and L.A. Más in Atwater Village to donate food and masks. She also worked with L.A. Más to network grocery deliveries to elderly residents in the area who were keen on avoiding stores.
The Immaculate Heart High School product studied nursing at the University of San Francisco, earning her bachelor’s degree in 2017. Glendale Memorial is her first job out of college.
“Glendale Memorial is a small community hospital, so it’s nice to know that somebody can walk through the door, they can see my face and they can connect — ‘Oh, I know your dad’ or ‘I saw you in church last Sunday,’” De La Torre explained. “Elysian Valley is a small community, so a lot of us recognize each other.”
Because she lives with her parents, De La Torre said she experienced peace of mind from receiving her coronavirus vaccine late last year. As Los Angeles County officials remain tense at the prospect of a Delta variant-driven surge in cases, she said she hopes vaccinations will ultimately blunt the virus’ effect on the health system here.
“When I got that first vaccine, it just made me feel so hopeful that we could get past this. It was a really cool feeling putting our full trust in science,” De La Torre said. “I felt like I was doing something good for me, my family and my patients. It set a good example, because if people see that others are getting it, they’ll be more inclined — ‘Oh, if Daisy got it, I’ll get it.’
“That’s all we want, for this to be manageable,” she added. “It doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon, but if we can get it to be manageable through vaccination, that’s all we want.”
On nursing as a career, De La Torre said she became interested at the prompt of a family friend who was in the profession. It was a home-run decision, she contends.
“I can’t imagine working in an office Monday through Friday. I really want to be in a field where I’m making a difference in people’s lives every day. When I went into nursing school, doing clinicals was when I realized, ‘Yeah, this is for me,’” De La Torre added. “It definitely left me feeling inspired, empowered, and it leaves you feeling like there’s more you can do out there to enrich people’s lives and make the world a better place.”