“I know they are going to die.”
They say it takes a special person to be a foster parent. To love a child unconditionally as your ownknowing all the while that they will one day have to go.
Mohamed Bzeek is that kind of person.
He’s the kind who loves every child unconditionally until they go. But when Mohameds children leave him, its because theyve passed away.
For 22 years, the foster father has taken in the sickest children in Los Angeles Countys system. Mohamed has buried 10children, some of whichdied right in his arms.
Typically, children in the system with complex medical conditions are placed in medical facilities, or with nurses who have become foster parents. But Mohamed is the only foster parent in all of Los Angeles County to welcome terminally ill children into his own home.
Mohamed first began fostering after he met Dawn, a woman who would later become his wife. She had become a foster parent in the early 1980s and had been inspired by her grandparents who had been foster parents.
Dawn Bzeekfell in love with every child she took in. She’d make holidays and birthdays special for each child, and developed a strong presence in the community as someone who worked alongside doctors and policymakers to improve foster care.
After they married in 1989, Mohamed and Dawn opened their home to dozens of foster children, many of whom were terminally ill. They taught classes at local community colleges about foster parenting and how to handle a childs illness and death.
Mohamed experienced his first death of a foster child in 1991. She was the child of a farm worker who breathed in toxic pesticides sprayed by crop-dusters while pregnant. The baby girl was born with a spinal disorder, wore a full body cast, and passed away before she was a year old.
“For some kids, they hit me so hard, I was crying for three days,” Mohamed said.
By the mid-1990s, the Bzeeks made the decision to care exclusivelyfor children who were terminally ill.
One boy the couple cared forhad a terminal intestinal disorder. Inhis short eight years on earth, he was admitted to the hospital 167 times.He was never able to eat solid foods, but that never kept the Bzeeks from giving him a place at the dinner table where he would feel like a part of the family.
The key is, you have to love them like your own, Mohamed explains. I know they are sick. I know they are going to die. I do my best as a human being and leave the rest to God.
Another one of their foster daughters had the same brain condition as the little girl that Mohamed cares fortoday. She only lived eight days after the couple brought her home.The girl was so small that a doll maker had to createthe dress for her funeral. Her coffin fit in Mohamed’s hands like a shoebox.
Each child brings special memories that Mohamed cherishesdeeply.
“They never have family,” he says. “I will take them and they have family, and when they die, they die with family.”
Mohameds only biological child is his son, Adam, who was born in 1997 with brittle bone disease and dwarfism. As a child, he was so fragile that something as simple as changing his diaper or putting on a pair of socks could break his bones.
His son’s disabilities were never a burden to Mohamed though. Thats the way God created him, he said.
Now 19, Adam weighs only about 65 pounds. Hes the smallest person in his computer science courses at Citrus College Mohamed said, but hes a fighter.
The Bzeeks never shied away from letting Adam know how sick his foster siblings were. Like his parents, he always knew his siblings were eventually going to die.
I love my sister, the teen said of his fathers current foster daughter. Nobody should have to go through so much pain.
In 2000, Dawn Bzeek became ill, suffering from powerful seizures that would leave her weak for extended periods of time.
In 2013 the couple split, and Dawn passed away just a year later.
Now 62, Mohamed is a single full-time father to a six-year-old girl and Adam. The hospital has become like their second home. When hes not there, hes usually on the phone with one of the girls many doctors, the insurance companies, or the lawyers and social workers who represent her.
Though Mohamed is licensed through the county to care for medically-fragile children and receives $1,700 a monthfor the girls care, he is not able to make medical decisions on her behalf.
But doctors believe the girl, who spends at least 22 hours a day hooked up to feeding and medication tubes, has only lived this long because of Mohamed.
When shes not sick and in a good mood, shell cry to be held, Doctor Suzanne Roberts explains. Shes not verbal, but she can make her needs knownHer life is not complete suffering. She has moments where shes enjoying herself and shes pretty content, and its all because of Mohamed.
Blind and deaf with little brain function, the girl could die at any time. But the grim futures of his terminally ill foster children have never led Mohamed to think twice about taking in another one. “These kids, they need people like us.”
It’s a heartbreaking job, but God bless Mohamed for taking on the challenge.
Los Angeles man makes it his life mission to foster terminally ill children. He has cared for more than 40 kids, 10 of them dying right under his roof. “I know those kids need people like us.” http://abcn.ws/2lYIRGs
Posted by ABC News on Thursday, February 16, 2017