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March 31, 2016 - Nurse Margie Friedman of USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital named national hero
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Hours before dawn on a chilly Friday morning, Margie Friedman quietly pulled on her nurse’s scrubs and drove to her job for a special assignment at 3 a.m. The mother of four boys works in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital, where an average of 80 premature infants receive around-the-clock care in Mobile.

Seven hours into her shift that same Friday morning, at 10:30 a.m., she was asked to go to the hospital’s main lobby. What happened next still brings a smile to her face.

A large gathering of her family and friends -- at least 50 people -- crowded into a corner of the lobby to share a surprise: Friedman had been selected by McDonald’s as one of 24 national heroes who work non-traditional schedules.   

As the crowd clapped and cheered, one of her sons gave Friedman an enormous bouquet of yellow and orange roses. She also received a $500 gift certificate to the Battle House Spa and breakfast for 70 co-workers. The national winners, representing 20 different cities, also included police officers, teachers, tradespeople and business people who put in long days and still manage to find time to serve their communities in other ways.

As Friedman wiped away tears, hospital leaders and Kriselyn Barnes Swalley, who co-owns several McDonald’s in the Mobile area, talked about why the NICU nurse was chosen. Friedman helped lead efforts to raise $750,000 for improvements to the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which allowed for a complete renovation of the space that can accommodate more than 100 babies.

“I am so grateful to work in such a wonderful unit with the most amazing people,” Friedman said. “I can't tell you how much it meant to me to walk into a room to be surprised by friends and family. It was a day I'll never forget.”

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Above, Kriselyn Barnes Swalley explains to a crowd of Margie Friedman's colleagues, family and friends about why she was selected as one of McDonald's 24 national Local Heroes. See more photos here.

When Friedman came to work at Children’s & Women’s in 2008, the NICU was beginning to show its age, with worn floors and dated colors on the walls. “We wanted to make it pretty here,” Friedman said, nodding to the walls which are now painted a calming shade of blue called “swimming.”  In addition to their beauty, the NICU’s new floors are antimicrobial.

To accomplish their goal, Friedman and some of her colleagues held bake sales and sold T-shirts, even hosting golf and kickball tournaments to raise money for the unit where tiny babies grow and thrive. Several philanthropists also made large contributions to the fundraising effort, which spanned about two years.

Friedman said she never considered a career in nursing until her firstborn son, Jack, spent three weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital. Born at 37 weeks, the infant suffered from severe jaundice. “It was terrifying,” she said, recalling the experience. “We spent a lot of time in the NICU and I thought ‘I would really like to do this’.”

Six years passed before Friedman went back to school to pursue a degree in nursing. During that time, her family grew to two sons and her husband graduated from law school. She eventually enrolled at the University of South Alabama. Through an accelerated program, she earned an undergraduate and master’s degree in nursing. In 2008, she took a job at Children’s & Women’s that brought her back to the spot where her firstborn received such quality care.  

Kriselyn Barnes Swalley said she was thrilled when Friedman was chosen from thousands of nominations across the country. “We wanted to recognize her for all of the hard work she does taking care of tiny little humans.  We are so grateful for everything she does for the families and the babies she takes care.”

See photos from Margie's big surprise event at our hospital!

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