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A heart for service

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Methodist Dallas's longest-serving surgery tech can't imagine life without helping patients and co-workers.

328 miles separates Kelly, Louisiana and Dallas, Texas, but the two places might as well be worlds apart. The tiny community in rural Louisiana does have something in common with an urban hospital in the heart of Dallas: Alice Madden.

The 67 year old certified surgery tech is a Kelly native who has spent her entire career at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. She arrived in 1971, a few years after graduating Madden, Alice.pngfrom high school and the first time she left her grandmother's care.

"My grandmother asked me where I wanted to go after high school, and I said 'Texas'," recalls Alice. "She gave me $150 and a set of luggage and said, 'Don't come back until you've figured out what you want to do'."

Alice laughs when she remembers the day she called her grandmother to announce she'd gotten a job at a big-city hospital making $1.84 an hour.

"She was so excited," Alice smiles. "We both thought I was rich!"

"This is where I'm supposed to be"

Looking back over her 46-year career, Alice says it's difficult to put into words the forces that inspired her to pursue a career in healthcare with just a country school education and no experience-other than a desire to help people.

"It's no mistake that I've been at Methodist for more than 40 years," she says. "God brought me here because this is where I'm supposed to be."

She's touched many parts of the hospital, beginning in pediatrics, playing a second mother to many patients, even babysitting colleagues' and doctors' children on her days off. She worked in labor and delivery, and general surgery before focusing on cardiology

"Methodist made me the person I am now," she says. "I was so young, so country when I first came here. I didn't know anything, but Methodist trained me. The people I've worked with taught me everything-not just how to do the job, but how to talk to patients, how to be professional. I couldn't have asked for a more blessed experience."

The veteran tech estimates that she's assisted at more than a thousand surgeries, witnessing a tremendous amount of technological changes along the way.

"I think my first surgery was in labor and delivery, a C-section, and I liked it," Alice remembers. "Surgery didn't scare me, it fascinated me. I knew right away that it was the place for me."

She has worked with physicians she describes as "the best in the business", including many Methodist surgeons who pioneered or premiered significant procedures in transplantation or open heart surgery. Alice was by their side for some of these groundbreaking moments.

"These doctors mean the world to me," she recalls. "They're like family. Several of them even sent me on a trip to Europe years ago to celebrate a major weight loss program I finished."

An essential team member

As a lead cardiac surgery technician, Alice's responsibilities include preparing and setting up surgical instruments prior to each procedure, passing the instruments to the physician during surgery, and sterilizing the instruments afterward. She also helps provide training to medical assistant students who rotate through Methodist Dallas for observation.

Alice is famous for her pronounced "hello" she greets colleagues and strangers with, and she even wears a lapel pin to reinforce the sentiment.

Vangie Sabado, a cardiovascular surgery coordinator who has worked with Alice for eight years, says that Madden's enthusiasm for her job remains undimmed, despite her long tenure.

"Alice is super prompt, never calls in sick, and even on her days off she comes in just to check on things or say 'hello'," Vangie says. "She calls herself 'Bossy Belle' because she wants everything to be right and she has a certain way of doing things. We laugh because it's true-but she's only that way because she loves this place."

Vangie recalls the time Alice showed her special kindness when her father passed away. "Alice called to see how I was and to encourage me," Vangie remembers. "She also gathered the group together and got everyone to sign a card for me. Alice is always initiating things like that. Her kindness is just one of the reasons she's a joy to work with."

Alice loves the collaborative nature of her job, particularly when it comes to their shared patient-first philosophy.

"Patients are our first priority," says Alice. "Our goal is to get them off that table, safely, and on the way to recovery."

Though she may not remember every patient's name or case particulars as the years go by, Alice says each is special to her.

"I try to meet as many as I can before surgery or drop by and visit afterwards," she says. "Sometimes they're very scared before a procedure, so I'll sing or do anything I need to do to make them laugh or smile."

John Jay, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon on the medical staff at Methodist Dallas, says that Alice's connection with patients is among her best assets. "She's very outgoing and relates well to patients and families, always joking with them and putting them at ease," says Dr. Jay. "It's one of the reasons why technicians like Alice are essential members of the surgery team."

As far as retirement goes, Alice says she has no plans to hang up her scrubs anytime soon. "I don't like staying home or sitting still. I'd rather be up here, helping others and doing what I'm supposed to be doing."

Heart Health HRA