Injured teen inspires outpouring of support

February 12, 2008|By JANET HEIM

Dori and Hayward Thaxton have endured the phone call all parents dread - the news that their oldest daughter was in a serious car accident.

Their daughter, Andrea Wimmer, was 18 at the time of the July 27, 2007, accident that left her paralyzed from the chest down.

After about three months of recovery and rehabilitation, the 2006 Linganore High School graduate returned home to the family's Londontowne townhouse to an outpouring of community support.

"I couldn't sum up all the things people have done for her," Dori Thaxton said.

Within days of the accident, employees of the Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation where Dori Thaxton has worked for 10 years, had collected $1,500 for the family. They also donated about 700 hours of sick leave, worth nearly $21,000, to Dori Thaxton so she could care for her daughter.


Accommodations for the Thaxtons while Wimmer was in rehab in Philadelphia were donate by the organization, the Friends of Jerry Segal.

Jerry Segal is a Philadelphia lawyer who has a spinal cord injury. He and his friends host an annual golf classic to fund a foundation that provides TVs and lounge areas for patients, as well as accommodations for family who have to travel a distance.

Andrea had worked for Domino's Pizza since she was 14, changing stores as the family moved, and the Domino's Partnership Foundation contributed $650. She most recently worked at the Domino's on Virginia Avenue.

The Thaxtons said it seems as a need arises, someone steps forward to meet it. When Callas Construction Co. learned that Andrea, now 19, was unable to get in and out of the family's home because of steps, they poured a concrete ramp and railings. United Way of Washington County added a street ramp for total accessibility.

A stair lift was paid for with $2,000 from a nonprofit organization called From One Family To Another and the remaining $300 from the Malone family, which includes Butch and Debbie Malone of Boonsboro, Kelly Malone of Hagerstown and Kerry and Josh McKean of Hagerstown.

"All other things, although small, have helped us tremendously. Cooked food or a little cash here and there have been a huge help to us. So has a night out that my husband and I had a while ago. It is so amazing how grounded our lives have become. We have so much to be thankful for and so many people to thank," Dori Thaxton wrote in an e-mail.

As a result of all the medical bills, the couple worries that they might lose their home.

"If it hadn't been for all these people donating things, we wouldn't be living here now. It's been more expensive than we thought," Dori Thaxton said.

Electronic equipment like a laptop computer from Marianne Stanley and Barbara Thaxton, a portable DVD player from Tom and Jeannie Wimmer and digital camera from Marcie and Dan McCarthy have helped keep Andrea Wimmer connected to her friends and the outside world.

Sandra Kuhns, Dori Thaxton's mother, donated medical equipment and care giving. Kuhns, who had retired not long before the accident, stayed with Andrea three days a week and traveled to Philadelphia to learn how to care for Andrea.

Wimmer now receives home therapy four days a week and feels herself getting stronger every day. Her goal is to be able to attend Hagerstown Community College in the fall.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was a 1993 wheelchair accessible van from an "anonymous angel," Dori Thaxton said.

While the van has given the family hope, unfortunately it isn't all that reliable. The donor's son, who coincidentally was the command EMT at the scene of Wimmer's accident, has been paying for repairs. It was through this connection that the Thaxtons learned that Andrea had to be resuscitated from the near- death experience.

"It's been very difficult. With faith, we've come full circle," Hayward Thaxton said.

Dori Thaxton has learned much from this experience. She suggests that the way to help those who have suffered a catastrophic event is to do something without asking.

"When someone asks what they can do, I always say 'nothing' because I don't know how to ask for help. It is those who just do stuff that have all of this possible," Dori Thaxton said.

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