It’s a holiday weekend and Madalene Smith is working. Not too unusual for a labor and delivery nurse; after all, babies wait for nothing and no one.
But Smith, a registered nurse at Oklahoma City’s Mercy BirthPlace, is anything but typical. With more than half a hundred years in the baby business and thousands of kiddos delivered – including 10 of her own – Smith’s still birthing babies on a holiday in an effort to “pull her weight.”
A 70-something firecracker with 27 grandkids and a new great-grandchild, Smith was chomping at the bit to get back to babies after a recent surgery. Her time away was about the only sick leave she has taken in her tenure, besides the days she missed birthing her own brood.
Lisa Early, clinical nurse specialist for Mercy’s BirthPlace, said Smith’s work ethic and energy level is beyond anything she has ever seen.
“She can run circles around most of the younger nurses,” Early said. “She leaves here, goes to church and then she walks every night. She’s just incredible.”
Seems there is a secret to the stamina.
“She swears by her broccoli and raisins,” Early said. “She goes down to the cafeteria every morning and gets uncooked broccoli and cauliflower to munch on all day. We’ll see bowls of raisins and we just leave them alone. She swears by it.”
In a field full of superstar caregivers, Smith’s star is a tad brighter; gaining luminance with each year she tacks onto her half century of service. Smith has been honored many times in her career, including the 2003 Oklahoma Hospital Association’s Healthcare Hero award, but she shuns the spotlight, deflecting attention and shining the light on those around her. Try tossing an accolade Smith’s way and she’ll cut you off like a discourteous driver. That doesn’t stop her patients and co-workers at Mercy’s BirthPlace from voicing their admiration and appreciation.
“She is such an incredible role model,” Early said. “We always try to put a new nurse in with her for a few days to see how Madalene processes things. It’s such a good thing for younger nurses to see.”
Another role, however, might be Smith’s greatest accomplishment: Super Mom. When her children were small, Smith worked nights and odd shifts to accommodate their busy schedules. One of the Smith kids wound up an Olympic gold medalist, but she’s cautious commenting on her internationally-known athlete because she doesn’t want to slight her other children.
Smith’s mind is still sharp as a tack, too, recalling birth experiences from decades ago and seldom forgetting a face. A pretty amazing feat when you consider that she’s delivered enough kids over the years to fill a football stadium.
“She has an incredible memory,” Early said. “We’ve had situations where she was delivering the child of a child she nursed years ago. It is remarkable.”
You’d think this baby stuff would be old hat by now, but Smith disagrees.
“Each one is a special, unique miracle and I remember them all,” Smith said.
Even that holiday delivery?
A decade from now?
Count on it.