49-year Phoebe Putney employee dies - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

49-year Phoebe Putney employee dies

July 19, 2006

Albany - Two years ago, we introduced you to Helen Vann Browning, an 86-year old woman still going strong and working full-time in the lab at Phoebe Putney Hospital. For 49 years she worked as a medical technologist. It's with sadness tonight that we report her death.

Helen Vann Browning started working in Phoebe Putney's lab in 1957, when rabbits and frogs were used to determine if a woman was pregnant.

"They would hop all over the place and we would chase them down the hall," she said in a 2004 interview.

At the time of a 2004 interview, Browning was nearing her 47th anniversary with the hospital with no thoughts of retirement.

"After all the years out here what would I do at home. This is my world, and it has been for nearly half a century," she had said.

Monday, Helen Browning passed away. The people who shared her world, her co-workers, say she considered them family.

"She was mom. She was mom in this place," said Bill Caldwell. "She took us all under her wing."

Bill Caldwell worked with Browning for 25 years.

"I drew inspiration and courage and the ability to make it through a day by just watching her go about her business every day," said Caldwell.

She worked the last few years confined to a wheelchair, the result of an injury suffered 55 years earlier -- caused by drag racing teenagers.

But one thing brought her back to work day after day. "Dedication, number one, I'm quite sure," said co-worker Martha Kicklighter.

"I don't know if that exists in our society anymore," added Caldwell. "She didn't have to be here, she wanted to be here. It was an inspiration."

Browning worked until just four weeks ago, when she got sick. But she told her manager she'd be back once she felt better. So, her death shocked co-workers.

"There was a deep sorrow and a loss. But because of who she is and who she was and the deposits she made in each and every one of us, her spirit will live in this place forever," said Caldwell. "She'll be missed so much."

Helen Browning is survived by her four children, 14 grandchildren, 23 great grandchildren and 1 great-great grandchild.

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