Immunocompromised Caledonia man is moving out so his wife can teach and kids can go to school

A husband and father is making the heartbreaking decision to move away so that his family doesn't have to worry about getting him sick.

'I'm choosing to move out so my family can move on.'

Daryl Baxter, who is immunocompromised, has decided to move out east so that his family doesn't have to carry the "weight" of protecting him from the virus. (Submitted by Daryl Baxter)

When school starts in September, a Caledonia father is making the heartbreaking decision to move away so that his wife, a teacher, and his kids won't have to worry about getting him sick.

Daryl Baxter, 51, is immunocompromised, has multiple invisible disabilities, and has a severe heart condition.

With fall approaching closer, he doesn't want to burden his family with the "weight" of keeping him safe so he's moving from his home in the small community south of Hamilton to Nova Scotia, where he has extended family.

"I'm taking the weak peg out of our family, which is me, it's easy to say, so that my family can have a life again," he said. "I'm choosing to move out so my family can move on."   

Jennifer Baxter, his wife, is a teacher in the Grand Erie District School Board, and their two daughters are in high school and elementary school. Heading back to class means the family will be exposed to three different school communities, which is too great a risk. 

Jennifer said it "breaks her heart" that her husband feels like he has to leave. 

"I just feel horrible for him and I don't want to bring any sickness to him, and I don't want the girls to bring any sickness to him," she said. "It'll be bad enough if any of us get it...it's hard to know what the best thing to do is." 

Daryl spoke about wanting his wife to teach without the constant anxiety of having to protect him, and his desire to have his kids ride the bus or interact with their friends without their dad's illness in the back of their minds. 

The move, Baxter said, would mean less stress for his wife, who is a teacher, and their daughters, who are headed back to class. (Submitted by Daryl Baxter)

Moving, he said, is the "only choice" they have right now. 

"I'd rather take the mental heartbreak of leaving for a while...so I can feel safe for my family and they can feel safe for me," he said. 

Daryl added that he would never want his loved ones to suffer the mental trauma of passing on the virus to him if they were to catch it at school. 

"The people that I love the dearest have to make a job, have to make a living, have to grow," he said. "I'm strong as everybody else, it's just because of my health...if Covid wasn't here, I wouldn't have to go." 

The provincial government announced their plans for kids to return to school in Ontario at the end of July. All Grand Erie school board students will be back for full-time, in-class learning on Sept. 8.

The Baxter family isn't alone in their anxiety about schools opening up. When CBC Hamilton spoke with experts in education, they said the plan contained many unanswered questions.  

It's unclear, experts said, whether there will be enough funding for school boards to keep class sizes small , to support physical distancing or for support staff to keep schools safer. There are also no direct plans for outbreaks.

The Baxters said they want to have their kids get back to seeing their friends and learning, but also wonder whether young students will understand the virus. Daryl also said he wouldn't want his kids to be left out in any way. 

"They need to have a life. I've had my life, I understand it," he said. "It's not fair to say 'you can't be with your friends' because of me." 

The Baxters thought about dividing up their home, but knew the isolation wouldn't be fair to Daryl. Jennifer also thought about taking time off work, but with only one income in their household, that wasn't an option.

Bringing more love back

Their family owns a property in the Annapolis Valley, bought to help Daryl with his recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder. He'll move there by himself for the first semester of school. 

"The best thing is for me to leave Ontario and go to a place where I have a little more freedom, where I can breathe, [and] actually have more quality of life, because here I'm stuck," he said.

He explained that every reopening means more restrictions on his end, where his window for living becomes smaller. 

When Daryl drives to the Atlantic bubble, the Baxters are hoping his family and neighbours out on the coast will help him through the 14-day mandated quarantine.

Jennifer said his leaving will be "brutal," and added that he'll have to alternate between driving and stopping to either cry or sleep. 

She also said she worries about her husband's mental health and about how the family will miss him once he's gone. Their girls are staying upbeat, she said, and they're very close to their father. 

But Daryl believes the transformation will be a good thing for his family. 

And when he comes home, he said, he'll be bringing more love back.