Left to right: Darrell Hicks, physical therapist assistant; Delores Bailiff; and Randi Dirnberger, occupational therapist assistant

When it comes to learning something new, Delores Bailiff, a longtime educator, is more accustomed to being on the teaching end of the equation rather than the pupil.


However, after a recent illness and hospital stay, she found she had to relearn many of the things she had done before without even thinking about them.


Bailiff went to the emergency department of a Cape Girardeau, Missouri, hospital after three weeks of being nauseous, short of breath and having swelling in her legs. When she left the hospital, she could hardly brush her teeth without being out of breath.


“That’s a humbling experience to not be able to do things for yourself,” she said.


After six days in the hospital, Bailiff came to Life Care Center of Cape Girardeau a few days after Christmas for physical and occupational therapy to rebuild her strength and stamina.


“As far as I’m concerned, this place has been a miracle for me,” Bailiff said. “When I came here, I wasn’t able to do much of anything for myself, and I’ve just been getting better every day.”


Randi Dirnberger, occupational therapist assistant, worked with Bailiff on endurance, energy conservation and home safety.


“We used the arm bike a lot for strength and endurance,” Dirnberger said. “We’d increase the time and the resistance to build her strength.”


Dirnberger added that Bailiff was able to advance from using a wheelchair to a walker and then to just a cane. The two also worked on methods to conserve energy, such as moving dishes to lower shelves to reduce reaching and having all toiletries in one central location to reduce the movements and time involved in gathering what was needed.


“She was used to going and going and going, so she worked really hard,” Dirnberger said.


Bailiff is no stranger to challenges. After the youngest of her three children started kindergarten, the thirty-something mom went to college – first at Three Rivers Community College near her Dexter, Missouri, home and then to Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau.


After completing her education degree, she started teaching junior high school students in Dexter, while also pursuing her master’s degree in education.


“I loved it,” Bailiff said of teaching junior high. “At that age, they’re going through so many changes, and they just need someone to love them.”


Although she’s been retired for some time, Bailiff joked that she needed therapy at the Life Care center to be able to arm-wrestle those sixth-grade boys again.


Bailiff “graduated” from inpatient therapy three weeks after her admission and returned to the home she shares with her daughter in Cape Girardeau. She is continuing outpatient therapy with her friends at Life Care three times a week.