Carol Morales sat down to enjoy a bowl of Cheerios, just as she does each day during her morning break at Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus. But this was no ordinary day. It was Morales' 80th birthday. And soon her regular routine was interrupted as her Operating Room colleagues began streaming into the breakroom with flowers, cakes and cards. Lots and lots of cards.
"Our Carol works so hard, we just wanted to show her a little appreciation," Christina England, Operating Room supervisor, tells us. She and her colleagues decided a fun way to do that would be by collecting 80 birthday cards, one for each year of Morales' life. When the big day arrived, there were nearly twice that many. "I was trying so hard not to cry," Morales tells us. No luck there. "Carol was in such shock that she was actually brought to tears, as many of us were," England says. "She is beloved by everyone."
A quick conversation with Morales, a licensed nursing assistant, makes it easy to understand why. "I try to treat people the way I want to be treated," she tells us. "I try not to be rude or grumpy. If I ever have a problem, I try to put a little honey on it rather than harsh words." (Sounds like a sweet approach to us.)
Despite the number of candles on her birthday cake, Morales is "an incredibly youthful colleague" and "an inspiration to all of us in the surgical services department," Shari McCormick, a nurse on the unit, tells us. "Her smile is contagious and her work ethic is unrivaled, by anyone, at any age." England agrees. "Carol keeps up with all of her younger co-workers, some of whom could be her great-grandchildren."
We couldn't resist asking Morales, who works four 10-hour shifts each week, what keeps her clocking in long past the age most people retire. "It's good for my health," she tells us. "I enjoy working and meeting new people. It keeps life interesting and fun."
We also asked Morales what she plans to do with all those birthday cards. "I think I'm going to get a picture album for the cards and pictures from the party and call it 'My Mayo Days,'" she says. "It will be kind of cool to have to look back at one day when I'm not working."
That day is unlikely to come anytime soon. Morales says she's been "one happy camper" since she joined the staff at Mayo. "I can't explain how great everyone has been to me," she tells us. "Mayo Clinic has been extremely good to me. It's a special place with special people. I love what I do and appreciate everyone I work with."
It seems the feeling is mutual. "Celebrating Carol's birthday was our pleasure and the highlight of our week," McCormick tells us. "Honoring Carol brought laughter and joy to our staff, as she does for us every day."
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