Stefanie and Jim Baxter: Picking Up the Pieces After Tragedy

Following her husband’s accident and resulting traumatic brain injury, Stefanie did anything but ask, “Why us?” Instead the Baxters remain focused on enjoying the present.

On a hot July afternoon in 2006, Stefanie Baxter’s husband, Jim, a diabetic and a carpenter, was installing a second-story window when his blood sugar dropped. Somebody gave him a candy bar, but the sugar didn’t reach his system fast enough. He fell from the ladder and suffered traumatic brain injuries. His right side is paralyzed. And he can’t speak. 

Until recently, he had been spending weekdays with his 77-year-old mother in Media, Pa., so Stefanie Baxter, who is 51, could continue working as a geologist with the Delaware Geological Survey and raise their 13-year-old daughter, Ginger. Jim is back home in North Wilmington. “His mom more than did her share for almost seven years,” Baxter says.

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Medicare and Medicaid cover many expenses, but friends have organized monthly “Spin for Jim” dance nights at the Bellefonte Café to raise money to cover other bills.

“An accident like this makes you realize that you’re not the priority,” Baxter says. “It put me way at the back of the list.” She never had thoughts of “Why me? Why didn’t this happen to somebody else?” Instead, she thinks, “Jim just had a brain injury, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Why feel pity? It’s just a waste of energy.”

She stays focused. “I don’t have a bucket list, other than making sure my husband and daughter are taken care of,” she says. “But I have a lot more empathy for people who have problems, and a lot less tolerance for people who think they do, but don’t.”

Jim tries to communicate. He laughs and smiles. He enjoys his massive comic book collection. He makes small improvements. “The fact that he has the will to keep going is amazing,” Baxter says. “I can only imagine what it’s like to be him. He has to be the strongest person I know.”

If you knew you had only one year left, what would you do?

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“My daughter wants to go to Alaska for the Iditarod race and to see the Northern Lights. I would make sure that happens.”

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