Marilyn Douglas at the piano

By Lisa Church, business development director


For years, Marilyn Douglas has helped others give glory to God by playing the piano and organ at United Methodist Church in Malden, Missouri.


That changed when chronic back pain made sitting on the piano bench for an extended time too painful.


“I just gave up my social life and everything,” said Douglas, 68. “I had played piano since I was a little girl, but I just couldn’t stand to do it anymore. The pain of sitting there was just too much.”


Trying to find a way to get her life back, Douglas had surgery in March 2017 to fuse two vertebrae in the lumbar region of her back. Afterward, her neurosurgeon, Dr. Paul Tolentino of Regional Brain and Spine in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, recommended rehabilitation at Life Care Center of Cape Girardeau.


“He said there were several places I could go after the surgery, but he recommended this place, and he was right,” Douglas said. “I have nothing but the best to say about everybody here. Everybody is so friendly and willing to help, even if it’s something that isn’t their job. I feel like a princess here.”


Douglas participated in physical, occupational and speech therapies for roughly three months. The speech therapy helped with memory and concentration to find the right words during conversation, while occupational therapy worked on life skills like getting dressed and maneuvering around the kitchen again.


“When Marilyn first came here, she was in a wheelchair and wasn’t able to ambulate on her own,” said Kimberley Davidson, physical therapist assistant.


Using the Omnicycle and BioStep exercise machines, the Biodex Balance System and ankle weights, Davidson worked with Douglas to regain her strength, balance and mobility in physical therapy.


“We worked on using the ‘log roll’ to get out of bed without twisting her back,” Davidson said. “We also worked on donning her back brace and picking up her feet instead of shuffling them. Marilyn did exactly what she needed to do, and she would do her exercise program on her own in her room. She was very dedicated.”


Douglas said Davidson inspired that dedication.


“Kimberley has just done everything,” Douglas said. “She encourages me and she pushes me, but I like that. Even on the dreaded gravel bed, she would say, ‘You can do it. You can do it.’ And I did. I told her I was going to have to make a recording of her and take it home with me.”


Another way Douglas has been preparing to return home is by practicing her hymn playing on the beautiful ebony piano in the dining room at Life Care Center of Cape Girardeau.


“Music has always been such a big part of my life,” she said with tears in her eyes. “I am so thankful to have that back.”

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