Marilyn Booker was a young girl, growing up in Grand Rapids, Mich., when a cousin was diagnosed with polio. It was then, at age 8 or 9, that she decided to pursue a career in healthcare.
“I knew then that I wanted to help people get better after having a crippling illness,” the Bolingbrook resident said. “But I didn’t know how. People would ask if I wanted to be a nurse, or a doctor, and I would say, ‘No, that’s not it.’ It wasn’t until I was in high school that I found about physical therapy. Then, I knew. I wanted to be a physical therapist.”
Since her 1953 graduation from the University of Kansas, Booker has worked a total of 57 years in physical therapy. In 1989, she was the first physical therapist hired by Adventist Health Care at Home. Today Booker is still going strong, even after celebrating her 80th birthday Sept. 4. She currently works part time.
Patricia McMillin, clinical director of Health Care at Home, called Booker “an exemplary employee. With her dedication and energy, she is an inspiration to all of us. She has a great reputation as a knowledgeable and hard-working physical therapist and her services are frequently requested by patients and physicians.”
Booker attended Graceland College, now Graceland University, for two years before transferring to the University of Kansas. She was the only physical therapy student hired by the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City in 1953, the year she was graduated.
“They knew I wanted to work with polio patients and there were many of them at that time,” Booker recalled. The vaccine that prevents polio was not widely distributed until 1955.
Booker and her late husband, who died in 2004, came to Illinois in 1962. The family moved to Florida in 1982 and returned to Illinois in 1989. She is the mother of two sons and a daughter who all live in the area.
Booker has worked in hospitals and in rehabilitation centers. She has managed a physical therapy department and a small clinic, and has also done home health care. Learning to use a computer has been one of her least favorite tasks, she admits. But she doesn’t expect to stop working anytime soon.
“I have always loved what I do,” she said. “I’ll retire when I can’t work any longer.”
Adventist Health Care at Home, 5101 S. Willow Springs Ave., La Grange, is a department of Adventist Midwest Health. Certified by Medicare and accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, Adventist Health Care at Home serves patients and families in DuPage, eastern Kane, northern Will and western Cook counties. For more information, call 708-245-6901.