If her sister could see her now: Giving back in her memory

When she tragically lost her sister, Onna Jones vowed never to return to the hospital where she last saw her loved one’s face. But now nearly 20 years later, she’s a valued employee who sees her calling as helping others.

The end of this month marks eight years since Onna Jones joined IU Health. But every day she walks through the doors is like her first day at work. She brings through those doors a history that is known to few.

She was 17 when she lost her older sister Rodneka Jones at the same hospital she now serves.

“We went to grade school together, we were on the same cheerleading squad, we shared a bedroom and the same bed. We shopped together. Everything she did, I did. She was my best friend,” said Jones. “My sister was outgoing. She was the life of a party. She got along with everyone and just had a magnetic personality. She was a singer and a dancer and we used to perform in talent shows. She was a super star. I can remember walking home from School #70 and people would stop and ask her to sing. They heard she could hit the high notes like Mariah Carey. I think if she were still alive she’d be on American Idol.”

It was the night of Jan. 15, 2000 and Jones remembers rushing to IU Health Methodist Hospital with other members of her family. The news was grim. Her sister was driving near East 38th Street when she was struck by another car forcing her vehicle to collide into a light pole that came crashing down on her car. The driver left the scene but was later identified.

“I remember all the doctors rushing around in the emergency room, and all my aunts and uncles, my mom, dad and sisters all there,” said Jones. “It was the last place I saw her.”

It wasn’t a place she wanted to return to. But time had a way of changing Jones’ heart. Eight years ago she started working in guest relations at IU Health and now works as a financial navigator.

“I had a dream and it was like an outer body experience. I was in the hospital and all the monitors were going off. I was dying. Two weeks later I got a call offering me a job in guest relations and I realized I had something to give to others – I wasn’t working as a doctor or a nurse – but I was able to help give life to patients.”

It was at that moment that she began using her personal experience to walk beside the patients she serves.

“I feel like this is my purpose – serving others. We tend to run from death because it hurts but God brought me back here to help others navigate their health,” said Jones, the mother of two girls and a boy. “I have patients tell me ‘you’re an angel,’ and I think that’s because I truly care. I have been in their shoes.” As a financial navigator, Jones is often the first point of contact a patient has with the hospital. She registers them, activates their accounts and makes sure they have insurance.  Ninety-five percent of the patients she sees come in for radiology – CT, MRI, nuclear medicine, and intervention radiology. Others come in for endoscopy, lab work, x-rays, and bone density scans.

“A really good day is going above and beyond and extending courtesy to patients. I always say, ‘thank you for choosing IU Health I hope everything goes well with your health.’ When a patient can walk away from me and feel more confidant about being here then I have done what I am called to do,” said Jones.

A graduate of Broad Ripple High School, Jones received certification in business clerical after high school and later used IU Health’s tuition reimbursement program to continue her training in billing and coding.

Her path to IU Health was paved even before her sister’s passing. Both her parents worked at Methodist Hospital. Her mother Denice Fay Jones worked in dietary and patient care access, and her father Rodney Vincent Jones worked as a phlebotomist.

“My grandmother, Mary Alice Dorsey, was 92 when she passed. She also worked at Methodist back when the employee bathrooms were segregated,” said Jones.

“I remember as a little girl when my mom was working I’d walk the hallways at Methodist. I always said I wanted to work here. There was a piano in the lobby that played automatically. I used to sit and listen to it. It was like I grew up here.”

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email tfender1@iuhealth.org.