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A Salisbury treasure

By Janet McCanless
for the Salisbury Post
We first met in 1961 when I went to work as a lab technician at what was then Rowan Memorial Hospital. We’ve been friends all these years, and on Nov. 30 of this year, Helen Brown will celebrate 50 years on the job with the Busby family of physicians. She even sits at the same desk she has always had, the wall above it now decorated with photographs of grandchildren.
Her first day on the job, co-incidentally was also Nov. 30, 1959. Helen was hired by Dr. Julian Busby, a local dermatologist, working for him until his sons, George, a surgeon, and Trent, an ob/gyn joined the practice. Now George’s son, Rudy, also a surgeon has the office, and the mainstay has always been Helen. Patients come and go, babies are born, but, Helen remains on the job, and she is the first person to greet you when you enter the door of this long standing medical practice.
Was the transition to this third generation of doctors hard, I asked her.
“Oh no, the Busbys are a wonderful family, very easy to work for, always treated me with the greatest kindness and respect.” She could not conceive of working anywhere else, and probably no other medical practice in the county has a 50-year employee.
Both of us coming from the medical community, and the old hospital, what was the biggest change for her, I wanted to know. “Paper work,” she said. “I came here before Medicare, Medicaid and all these privacy issues. The paperwork is astounding, never ending, and, thankfully, I learned it gradually, it sort of ‘grew’ on us, but, it is a formidable task, I assure you. The technical support through all this paperwork is a job in and of itself. As for the hospital, I couldn’t work over there, can’t find my way around. When we started, it was just a tall, square building in the middle of the block, and now, look at it !”
When Helen began her career in the medical office, she had earned her medical records knowledge from Lees McCrae College, and her business degree from Catawba, and her husband, Ralph, was a science and math teacher at the old Boyden high school. They married in 1956, and, this year will celebrate 53 years of wedded bliss. One of her career highlights was the Christmas the Busbys took their office staff on a cruise, the Browns were married 50 years that year, so, it was a double celebration.
During her office tenure, she and Ralph raised two daughters, one of whom teaches now at West Rowan High School, and, of course there are grandchildren to love and adore.
We have to pause here and discuss two of these grandchildren. They have cystic fibrosis, and thanks to Helen and her twice-a-year yard sales, she has single handedly raised $81,000 for cystic fibrosis research. This is no small feat, she does it all from her backyard at their beautiful home over by Knox Middle School.
“Of course, I have help,” she says, “and the Cystic Fibrosis Association gives us all the supplies we need in the way of T-shirts, posters and receipts, that sort of thing,” but, to this writer, $81,000 is a lot of money. “I’d like to think there are grandmothers all over the country who would do the same thing for their grandchildren,” she says.
And how are those grandchildren today, I asked her. “One is 21 and a senior in college, the other is a 17-year-old high school junior, and they are doing well.”
Helen pooh-poohs the idea that maybe the Busbys will do something special for her on her day, but, I’m willing to bet they do. This is a woman who loves her job, loves the people she works for and, more importantly, she loves the patients who navigate through the office on Henderson Street. She truly cares about their health and well being, and not surprisingly, she follows up on a lot of them. So many in fact, she has lost count.
“Did we deliver your babies?” she wanted to know. “Sure did,” I answered, which only brought us around to more reminiscing.
Any plans for retirement? Not this gal, she plans to continue on at her job running the Busby office with efficiency and aplomb. Husband Ralph is retired, and since moving his 102 year old mother into their home, he cares for her while his wife continues to care for the Busbys and their patients.
How does she want to be remembered? “When I die, I hope it can be said of me that I made a difference, made someone’s visit to this office a little easier, a little more pleasant.”
Before leaving, I took one more look at Helen’s desk. Ancient and antiquated, full of the nicks and dings that 50 years of hard work brings, I was astonished all over again that my friend of so many years was still on the job, still doing her work as efficiently as anyone I’ve ever known, and ever so grateful that she was still greeting folks as they entered the office, which, by this time, was full. She told me she had work to do, “Her” patients were waiting, but, it had been fun talking again with me.
Salisbury doesn’t have any so-called ” treasures” like a lot of cities do, but, maybe it should, and I have someone in mind to receive the first honor.

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