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Marguerite Badger What can I say about Marguerite Badger, the First Lady of Memorial Hermann’s acclaimed Life Flight program, that has not been said so many times in the past?  Her talent, her skills, her devotion, her passion, and compassion, for the hospital and Life Flight were extraordinary.

Marguerite died Monday afternoon in the Houston hospital she faithfully served for
50 years.

There are a lot of people who claim credit for starting Life Flight or for its subsequent success, but no one did more than Marguerite.  She breathed life into the program, building a patient and family-centered culture that most healthcare organization’s can only hope for.

Marguerite began her Life Flight tenure with me in the summer of 1976.  Her initial job was to track the patient revenue that could be directly attributed to the program and to keep me, a young, former reporter turned PR director and Life Flight Operations Coordinator, out of trouble.  While the program had lofty humanitarian and patient care goals, when Life Flight lifted off on Aug. 1, 1976 for its maiden emergency flight, Hermann was struggling to overcome major financial challenges following years of mismanagement.  This program was a big risk.  We all knew it, especially the hospital’s CEO, Bill Smith, the man who personally picked Marguerite for the job.  He trusted Marguerite’s passion for Hermann, her integrity, and another side of her personality that we only came to know later – her bulldog-like tenacity.  For the program to continue beyond its trial period, Smith had to show the Hermann Hospital Estate Board of Directors that Life Flight was bringing in revenue that the hospital would not have ordinarily seen. He knew she was the right person for the job.  In the process, she befriended thousands of patients and their families, forging strong bonds with Hermann that have produced immeasurable value.

Over the years, Marguerite defended the program from operational and financial meddlers.  Little did they know who they were tangling with.  Those well-meaning executives are long since gone and the program continues today with its basic operating concepts intact.

Marguerite did not come up with the idea for the program, nor was she the only person on the start-up team.  She would never take credit for something she did not do.  She was honest like that.  Over the years, Marguerite sought to preserve and protect the Life Flight history.  She always gave credit to others – to me, EMS Chief L.O. “Whitey Martin and Dr. James H. “Red” Duke, Jr. Deputy Chief of Surgery and head of the hospital’s trauma center, the program’s earliest champions, and most especially to Mr. Smith, who staked his career with the hospital board that Life Flight would succeed and transform Hermann.

For more than 35 years, Marguerite’s loyalty and devotion to the program, and those who were involved at the start of it all, was unwavering.  Life Flight was her signature professional accomplishment, and long after her retirement she watched over it like a proud parent.

So what more can I say?  I will miss her terribly — my good and loyal friend.

The following poem, which I read at my mother’s funeral, was written by Canon Henry Scott Holland, who included these words in a sermon delivered at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral on Whitsunday 1910, while the body of King Edward VII was lying in state at Westminster.

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
that we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without affect,
without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you,
for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just around the corner.

All is well.

© 2012 John Gregory Self