by Constance Garcia-Barrio
Stacey Baxter has returned to her home turf with her hands full of healing. Born in Chestnut Hill Hospital, Baxter, 56, now a visiting nurse, goes to the homes of patients in Germantown, Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill and Roxborough to help promote their mending after hospitalization.
Baxter, of East Mt. Airy, recalls the ground that nurtured her.
“We used to live on Ardleigh Street,” she said of her parents, four siblings and a cousin her parents adopted. “We played red light/green light, hide and seek and raced our bikes at the Sedgwick Playground or in our driveway,” said Baxter, who attended Houston Elementary School and Masterman, and graduated from Girls High School when she was 17.
Baxter had envisioned becoming a psychologist because she likes helping people, but a friend’s suggestion took her in another direction.
“The silliest thing happened,” she said. “A buddy of mine said she was going to attend Frankford Hospital’s School of Nursing. She told me to try it, that we could push each other through.”
That mutual support proved crucial.
“Of course, we studied together all the time, and when I had to take a semester off after having a baby, my buddy had every single note from all the classes I’d missed ready for me,” said Baxter, who graduated from nursing school in 1988.
Baxter’s parents also lent a hand.
“I moved back home while in nursing school so my parents could help me care for my son.”
She’d been working part-time at an Acme since she was 19 and continued to do so for a short time after becoming a nurse. By then, she had her own apartment in Germantown.
Baxter may not have a formal degree in psychology, but nursing has schooled her in that field.
“Nursing means more than taking temperatures and pulses,” explained Baxter, who works for Bayada Home Health Care. “You have to listen, do problem solving. Say you have a patient who needs to elevate his legs at certain intervals to avoid swelling, but he has trouble remembering to do it. Then you find out that he has favorite TV shows, so you tell him, ‘When these two shows come on, it’s time to elevate your legs.’”
Bring overweight bedevils some of Baxter’s patients, yet the idea of dieting puts them off.
“I tell them, ‘You don’t have to diet; just cut your portion sizes,’” she said. People find that easier.”
Baxter likes the range of patients she meets in the Northwest.
“I enjoy relationships with different kinds of people,” she said. “They love you because you’re there for them. It crosses lines of race and class. One lady always has a bottle of cold water for me.”
Baxter may see a patient for a few weeks. Then again, some need help for a longer time.
“I cared for one man for more than six months,” she said. “He was pretty sick. He almost lost his foot.”
Baxter sometimes puts in long days, seeing as many as 10 patients, but her son often helps to lighten her load.
“He’s 31, has autism and is a good cook,” she said. “He works an overnight shift right now, so I don’t see him as much as I’d like.”
Baxter’s patients keep her busy, sometimes calling her at night and on weekends when she’s off, but she still makes time for sewing and gardening on her one-third of an acre of ground.
“I like hostas because they grow easily.”
Her house on Cliveden Street, designed by architect C. August Ziegler in 1924 as a summer home for a local lawyer, has been featured in books on notable Philadelphia architecture.
“I didn’t know that or any of the history of the house when I bought it in 1991.”
Not one to keep treasures to herself, in 2017 Baxter began hosting students from abroad who are attending Chestnut Hill College.
“Someone from the college interviews you and comes to your home to see what it’s like,” Baxter said. “Last year, a student from Spain and some Japanese instructors stayed for a few weeks. You take them around to give them the lay of the land, acquaint them with SEPTA routes and give them a little mothering. Another woman from Japan who needed to improve her English spent several months here.”
It seems that in both her profession and other activities, Baxter gives of herself.
“That’s why we’re here,” she said, “we have to help each other.”
Baxter encourages young women to consider the nursing profession, but she offers caveats concerning patients.
“Don’t doubt your sixth sense,” she said. “I’ve been in situations where I’ve told the company, ‘Don’t send female nurses out to that patient.’ Don’t tell your husband about such incidents. You’ll find yourself looking for a new job!”
For more information, visit bayada.com. Constance Garcia-Barrio, a long-time resident of Mt. Airy, is a retired professor of Romance languages at West Chester University. She has written widely as a freelance writer about African American history and culture, senior citizen issues and other matters.