Muslim American Devotes Life to Fostering Dying Children

Last week, the Los Angeles Times published a story about Mohamed Bzeek, a devout Muslim man who moved to the US from Libya in 1978 and who spent the last two decades of his life as a foster parent for terminally ill children that no one else wants. Ten of these children have died under his care, some even died in his arms.

When the LA Times reporter visited him at his home, he was caring for a 6 years old girl who is blind, deaf and paralyzed from arms and legs. She's been living with him since she was 1 month old. Mohamed takes her to the hospital on a regular basis. Dr. Susanne Roberts who follows the girl's case says "When she's not sick, and in a good mood, she'll cry to be held. 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." He told the reporter "I know she can't hear, can't see, but I always talk to her. I'm always holding her, playing with her, touching her. She has feelings. She has a soul. She's a human being.".

A few passages from the LA Times story:

Of the 35,000 children monitored by the county’s Department of Children and Family Services, there are about 600 children at any given time who fall under the care of the department’s Medical Case Management Services, which serves those with the most severe medical needs, said Rosella Yousef, an assistant regional administrator for the unit. There is a dire need for foster parents to care for such children. And there is only one person like Bzeek.

"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 who finds placements for sick children. "He's the only one that would take a child who would possibly not make it."

Mohamed Bzeek first experienced the death of a foster child in 1991. She was the child of a farm worker who was pregnant when she breathed in toxic pesticides sprayed by crop dusters. She was born with a spinal disorder, wore a full body cast and wasn't yet a year old when she died on July 4, 1991, as the Bzeeks prepared dinner.

"This one hurt me so badly when she died," Bzeek said, glancing at a photograph of a tiny girl in a frilly white dress, lying in a coffin surrounded by yellow flowers.

By the mid-1990s, the Bzeeks decided to specifically care for terminally ill children who had do-not-resuscitate orders because no one else would take them in.

There was the girl with the same brain condition as Bzeek's current foster daughter, who lived for eight days after they brought her home. She was so tiny that when she died a doll maker made an outfit for her funeral. Bzeek carried her coffin in his hands like a shoe box.

"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."

Bzeek's only biological son, Adam, was born in 1997 - with brittle bone disease and dwarfism. He was a child so fragile that changing his diaper or his socks could break his bones. Bzeek said he was never angry about his own son's disabilities. He loved him all the same. "That's the way God created him," Bzeek said.

Source: LA Times