This is one of those stories that won’t get much air-time in the mainstream media. Many of the readers who may have come across it in the Los Angeles Times, in the heart of compassionate California, may have turned away. And for good reason. It is a brutal tale of dying children, and one caring man that will make most of us feel incredibly inadequate.
[Scroll Down for Video]
Mohamed Bzeek is a foster parent. For more than XX years, Bzeek has taken in foster children in Los Angeles. Yet there’s something that makes Bzeek different. He specializes in caring for dying children. The kids that come to Bzeek have serious health problems. They have short life expectancy. And he’s buried ten of them.
He’s currently caring for a 6-year-old girl who is both blind and deaf. She has seizures, and it paralyzed.
“I know she can’t hear, can’t see, but I always talk to her,” Bzeek told the LA Times. “I’m always holding her, playing with her, touching her. … She has feelings. She has a soul. She’s a human being.”
Los Angeles County has an estimated 35,000 children in its foster care program. With numbers that high, not all of them will be healthy.
The Department of Children and Family Services reports averages about 600 children who need the services of its Medical Case Management Services. Finding foster parents is hard enough. Finding homes for children with special needs is even more complicated. Finding caring parents like Bzeek, people who will care for children that they know will die, is almost impossible.
“If anyone ever calls us and says, ‘This kid needs to go home on hospice,’ there’s only one name we think of,” said Melissa Testerman, a DCFS intake coordinator. “He’s the only one that would take a child who would possibly not make it.”
The LA Times got special dispensation to provide details about the children Bzeek cares for for their article:
The girl’s head is too small for her 34-pound body, which is too small for her age. She was born with an encephalocele, a rare malformation in which part of her brain protruded through an opening in her skull, according to Dr. Suzanne Roberts, the girl’s pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Neurosurgeons removed the protruding brain tissue shortly after her birth, but much of her brain remains undeveloped.
She has been in Bzeek’s care since she was a month old. Before her, he cared for three other children with the same condition.
“These kids, it’s a life sentence for them,” he said.
“The key is, you have to love them like your own,” Bzeek said recently. “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.”
There’s a subtle message, too, in the timing of the article. Bzeek, who is 62, immigrated to America as a college student in 1978. He is a devout Muslim. He was introduced to the foster system through his wife, Dawn, who has since passed away. Now Bzeek lives alone, caring for those who no one else will care for.
Read the original profile of Bzeek here. It is an exceptionally moving piece.