Muslim immigrant cares for terminally ill children in heartbreaking gesture of love
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A Muslim immigrant came to America over two decades ago and met a woman who forever changed his life for the better. He now spends his days loving the unloved, forgotten and terminally ill.
Mohamed Bzeek has fostered terminally ill children for twenty years.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Mohamed Bzeek came to the United States from Libya to attend college in 1978.
While here, he met Dawn, who eventually became his wife. Her heart for children was obvious from the beginning. She was a foster parent in the early 1980s before she even met Bzeek.
She loved the kids children and was inspired by them. Eventually, she became a foster parent for children who required emergency placement or who were placed in protective custody.
Dawn's heart for children was palpable through the holiday photos and Christmas gift donation drives she organized specifically for kids in foster care.
When they married, Bzeek said she had a great sense of humor but was so afraid of spiders and other insects that Halloween decorations gave her goosebumps but she was still strong.
Bzeek told the LA Times he started caring for foster children with Dawn in 1989. The children who came in were often ill but it wasn't until 1991 that they experienced loss.
The baby was born to a farmer who inhaled toxic pesticides delivered by crop dusters. When she was born, she was diagnosed with a spinal disorder and was forced to wear a full body cast.
Bzeek and his wife took her in and cared for her the best they could. She wasn't even a year old when the Bzeeks were preparing dinner on July 4, 1991. It was while they happily made the meal that the infant passed away.
"This one hurt me so badly when she died," Bzeek explained, looking at a picture of the beautiful baby girl, free from her body cast and dressed in a frilly white dress surrounded by yellow flowers in her tiny coffin.
Shortly after her loss, the couple decided to care specifically for terminally ill children with do-not-resuscitate orders.
The overrun system was full of children who couldn't be placed and the Bzeeks became the popular choice for children no one would ever adopt.
Rosalla Yousef, an assistant regional administrator for The Department of Children and Family Services'(DCFS) Medical Case Management Services, reported of the 35,000 children monitored in the Los Angeles area, roughly 600 at any given time suffer from severe medical issues.
The county is desperate for foster parents willing to care for these children and the Bzeeks became literal life savers.
Unfortunately, in 2000, Dawn began having seizures. They became so violent that she stopped leaving the house for fear of embarrassing herself.
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Her illness grew worse and it put a strain on the couple's relationship so in 2013, the two separated. Barely over a year later, Dawn passed away.
Bzeek's love for his late wife remains etched on his face when he talks about her but he has experienced so much loss over the past two decades that he knows how to handle it.
When Dawn passed, she left behind the couples' only son, Adam, who was born with dwarfism and brittle bone disease. He was so delicate, something as small as changing his diaper could break his bones.
"That's the way God created him," Bzeek said, fully accepting his son's conditions and loving him regardless.
Bzeek loves his foster children (Genaro Molina/LA Times).
Today, the now 19-year-old weighs 65-pounds and is happily attending college courses. He loves his sister, the a little girl who requires around the clock care and whom his father happily cares for.
Melissa Testerman, a DCFS intake coordinator who places sick children with foster families, explained: "If anyone ever calls us and says, 'This kid needs to go home on hospice,' there's only one name we think of. He's the only one that would take a child who would possibly not make it."
Terminal children who can't be placed with a foster family are taken to medical facilities or go home with nurses who decided to become foster parents but Bzeek is currently the only foster parent in the entire county who is known to accept terminally ill children.
The girl he cares for, whose identity is protected by law, was born with encephalocele, a rare deformation of her skull, which allows part of of her brain to stick out through an opening of the skull and leaves much of the brain tissue undeveloped.
She is now 6-years-old and weighs only 34-pounds. She has been with Bzeek since she was only one-month-old, though she is not the first child with encephalocele he has cared for.
"These kids, it's a life sentence for them," Bzeek stated. He cared for a little girl suffering the same condition who only lived eight days after the couple brought her home.
She was so small when she passed, the Bzeeks found a doll maker to make her a beautiful outfit for the funeral. Her coffin was so small, he was able to carry it easily in his hands.
To this day, sharing stories of the children who passed makes Bzeek choke up. He said his wife was the stronger person and was better able to handle the loss.
The little girl Bzeek is raising is both blind and deaf but his love for her is obvious. She must sleep sitting up to avoid choking to death as she rests. She sleeps propped up on a couch and Bzeek sleeps on a couch beside her, waking often to check on her.
Though he knows she is deaf, he often speaks to her and comforts her in any way he can.
"When she's not sick and in a good mood, she'll cry to be held," Dr. Suzanne Roberts, the girl's pediatrician at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, explained. "She's not verbal, but she can make her needs known....Her life is not complete suffering. She has moments where she's enjoying herself and she's pretty content, and it's all because of Mohamed."
Her brain cannot regulate her body temperature evenly and she must be attached to feeding and medication tubes a minimum of 22-hours-a-day.
By the time the girl was only 2-years-old, Dr. Roberts had done all she could to improve her quality of life.
"Nobody ever wants to give up," Dr. Roberts sadly explained. "But we had run through the options."
Bzeek collects $1,700 each month to care for the girl's numerous needs,multiple doctor's visits and temporary nurse when he goes out to pray, but his son has requested help from friend Margaret Cotts to create a Go Fund Me to raise $100,000.
The account was created on Wednesday, February 8 and has already raised nearly $69,000 in only 18 hours.
The accompanying message reads, "I'm setting up this GoFundMe for Mr. Bzeek. He is very grateful for the support. Adam Bzeek, Mr. Bzeek's son, will be withdrawing the funds on behalf of the campaign."
"The key is, you have to love them like your own," Bzeek explained. "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."
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