TEXAS HEALTH VOLUNTEER

Myrna Sklar does volunteer work folding towels at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Allen. 

Myrna Sklar wasn’t having an easy transition to life in Texas. She was a native New Yorker: born there, raised there and lived there her whole life. But her son-in-law, an employee at Chase Bank, heard about a position here that really interested him. When he got the job, Sklar said she had no choice but to follow her daughter and son-in-law to North Texas.

“I wasn’t going to leave my grandchildren. Those are my only two, just from my one daughter,” she said. “So I came down here with them.”

To a New Yorker, Texas might as well be the moon. It was certainly a far cry from Sklar’s close-knit community of friends and neighbors she had in Queens and Long Island. There, Sklar said, neighbors would stop by just to have coffee and visit. She didn’t find that to be the case here.

“I’ll tell you what my daughter from Brooklyn used to say before we moved to Texas. She said, ‘There’s one thing about the Southerners, don’t ever forget. They all invite you for dinner; they just don’t give you their address.’ And it’s true when you think about it,” she said. “Not that people invite me for dinner all the time, but I find that they want to befriend you and then they disappear off the face of the earth.”

For a gregarious, self-proclaimed “people person,” the culture shock took some getting used to for Sklar. But then she went in several years ago for physical therapy at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano and met Jennifer Bullock, her therapist, who would become one of the closest friends Sklar has made here or in New York. So close, in fact, that she refers to Bullock in a familial way.

“She became my adopted daughter and I’m her Jewish mom,” she said. “And I have a very, very, very close relationship with her.”

Bullock went to work on Sklar’s aching hands and hips in Texas Health Plano’s rehab department. As her treatment progressed and they spent more time together, they gradually got to know more about each other. The relationship became more than just patient-therapist. Sklar got to know Bullock’s husband and kids, and started babysitting her son, Falon.

“I just don’t really even know how it evolved,” Bullock said. “It just clicked. I think Myrna is just a very sweet, genuine person.”

Sklar had become so fond of her therapist that when Bullock moved over to Texas Health Allen, she didn’t hesitate to go with her.

“One day she says to me, ‘Myrna, I hate to tell you but I’m leaving here.’ I almost died,” Sklar said. “I said, ‘You can’t.’ She says, ‘But where I’m going, you’re going to follow me, you’re going to come with me.’ And that’s what I did.”

Sklar now has not only made Bullock her adopted daughter, but the entire rehab staff at Texas Health Allen, as well. Bullock calls her the “clinic grandmother.” Sklar loved spending time with them so much that she started volunteering on Tuesdays, slipping on her green vest and folding pillowcases for the rehab department.

“Her value to our department runs much deeper than the work that she does here as a volunteer,” said David Clubb, director of rehabilitation services at Texas Health Allen. “There are times when you meet people that change your life for the better, and Myrna is one of those people.”

On her 75th birthday, the staff threw Sklar a surprise party complete with a spread of homemade food, cake and gifts.

“I knew nothing about it,” Sklar said. “People have made me surprise parties years ago and I always found out, I always knew. The people here are just wonderful.”

Sklar still makes the drive once a week from her apartment in The Colony to Allen for therapy. She isn’t thrilled with some of the changes going on next to her apartment, like the new Nebraska Furniture Mart. “I understand it’s very crowded,” she said. She likes In-N-Out Burger, but doesn’t anticipate going to the new one next door anytime soon.

“They’re good, but I’m very happy with McDonald’s hamburgers for a dollar,” she said. 

For continued local coverage, follow @GCook_StarLocal on Twitter. 

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