El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona's COVID-19 Struggle Fuels Passion for Healthcare Access Jessica Ancona

On Tuesday, December 1, 2020, Jessica Ancona was sworn in as El Monte’s mayor. But as she took her oath of office, the ceremony was tinged with bittersweet emotions: just two days earlier, Ancona tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, her swearing-in took place virtually as she lay in her sickbed. Jessica Ancona, El Monte Mayor

The previous Thursday, on Thanksgiving, Ancona had joined friends for their annual Friendsgiving Day of Golf — a cherished tradition. The group took every COVID-19 precaution, feeling secure with an outdoor activity. Little did Ancona know that this seemingly innocuous gathering would begin a life-altering experience during a time when the world still knew little of this virus and resources were severely limited. 

Within days, her health rapidly declined. Fearing for her two children, Eddie and Julie, she took all necessary precautions. Yet her condition worsened. Her oxygen levels plummeted by Wednesday, December 8, prompting her to drive to Adventist Health White Memorial’s emergency department, where she was immediately admitted. She spent six harrowing days under the watchful eyes of doctors, nurses and infectious disease specialists. The pandemic’s peak had arrived, and treatment options were limited. 

Friday night, Ancona’s condition took a terrifying turn. She couldn’t even stand without her heart rate spiking and oxygen levels dropping. Isolated from her loved ones, she called her family to pray for her, unsure whether she would survive the night. The surreal atmosphere of the hospital, with sealed doors, masked doctors, and no visitors, only heightened her sense of loneliness and fear. 

But Adventist Health White Memorial proved to be Ancona’s sanctuary. The staff provided her with oxygen, antibiotics, vitamins, steroids, breathing exercises and support that helped her remain optimistic. Witnessing other patients recover gave her hope, and she began to feel better by Sunday. She was discharged the following Tuesday, December 15, although it took another month before she began to feel like herself again. 

During her medical center stay, Ancona experienced the healing power of compassionate care. The Adventist Health White Memorial medical staff attended to her physical needs and emotional well-being, assisting with tasks like bathing and washing her hair. This holistic approach to healing left an indelible impression on Ancona, who remains deeply grateful for their support. 

Ancona’s experience helped her see the need for improved access to healthcare in her city, particularly for the large immigrant community. To address this, she championed increased access to COVID-19 testing. She also partnered with local schools to ensure vaccines were available to everyone, regardless of health insurance or immigration status. By working closely with trusted community institutions, she improved public health outcomes for all residents of El Monte. 

For Ancona, Adventist Health White Memorial is a beacon of hope, especially for those who lack health insurance or speak languages other than English. Reflecting on her experience, she said, “White Memorial provided me the care I needed as a woman of color. Even seeing some of the other patients there, Spanish speaking only, the doctors and the nurses could provide them the care they needed in the language they needed. It was invaluable. White Memorial provides them the care they need, and in many cases, maybe to save their lives. Like me.” 

Ancona’s story is a testament to the power of compassionate care and the importance of providing quality healthcare to all, especially to the most vulnerable. The dedicated staff at Adventist Health White Memorial demonstrated how empathy, understanding and tireless caring for everyone – regardless of background or language – could make a life-changing difference for patients like Ancona.  

In her role as mayor, Ancona has taken the lessons from her own experience and translated them into action, fighting for equal healthcare access and better outcomes for all residents of El Monte. Her personal triumph is a powerful reminder of the transformative impact compassionate care can have on entire communities.  

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