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Hospice doctor’s cross-state bike ride spreads urgent message


When Dr. Ric Baxter pedals away from St. Luke’s University Hospital Network’s (SLUHN) Hospice House in Saucon Valley on Sept. 2, beginning his trans-Pennsylvania bike trip, he’ll be taking an urgent message to the people he meets along the way: Don’t wait.

Don’t wait to enjoy those things you’ve been putting off: the vacation, the new home, the relationship. Do them soon, or you might never achieve them. Don’t wait to spend time with people who are important to you. Our time is limited, so delaying might mean putting this off forever. Don’t wait to seek medical care, which can keep you healthy, make you stronger or bring you comfort if you’re facing a complex or terminal illness.

Baxter has wanted to make this solo trip for a year or so. He is 67 years old and has a passion for riding his bike to stay active. Knowing it’s likely now or never that he’ll be able to take this 800-mile journey, he is not waiting.

The SLUHN Hospice and Palliative Medicine specialist and Emmaus resident, aims to use the month during his two-wheeled tour to share this carpe diem message with his audiences along the trip. To people who are facing complex illnesses or their final days, Baxter advises them to request Palliative or Hospice Care, which has been shown to both prolong life and make the final days more valuable.

Baxter is heeding his own advice, taking four weeks off from his work with St. Luke’s to make this journey, something he hasn’t done during his 40-year medical career. As he gets a glimpse of what retirement might bring in two years, he’ll also use the hours on his saddle to remember family members and patients whom he’s had the privilege to treat during their final days.

Over the course of four weeks, Baxter will visit hospice facilities, family, friends and public institutions, many in out-of-the-way places. He’ll ride some 50 miles each day over five-six hours, taking his two-wheeler through bucolic fields, over challenging hills and into busy and sleepy towns. He will celebrate his 68th birthday on Sept. 7 in Ellisburg, Potter County, where his wife, Martha, will meet him.

His itinerary will include a stop in Quakertown before finishing where he began.