Mom Takes in Hospice Babies So They Don't Have to Die Alone

This is such a beautiful story of love that it's hard to even fathom it. Cori Salchert is a registered nurse and a mom to eight biological children, and she has made it her mission to adopt and care for infants she calls "hospice babies." These are children with severe to terminal conditions who have been abandoned by their biological parents for a variety of reasons.

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Cori and her husband Mark take these babies home and love them as they live out their short lives on earth.

Their first hospice baby was 2-week-old Emmalynn in 2012. This sweet baby girl suffered from a condition that meant that she didn't have a left or right hemisphere in her brain, only the brain stem. She lived for 50 days before passing away in Cori's arms, tucked inside her fuzzy bathrobe. Cori said, "Emmalynn lived more in 50 days than a number of folks do in a lifetime. She had not had a family, and now she was suddenly the youngest sibling of nine. We held her constantly and took her everywhere with us."

As a nurse specializing in perinatal bereavement, Cori knew all too well the reality that some of these children face -- tucked away in a bassinet in the corner of a hospital, some never held at all if they were on feeding tubes. She says that she has no judgment whatsoever for parents who can't emotionally cope with watching their babies die, but she couldn't stand the thought of their being left alone to die.

Their current child is 1-year-old Charlie, who suffers from hypoxic ischemic brain encephalopathy, which means his brain can't get enough oxygen, and therefore he experiences neurological impairments. His life is dependent on a tracheostomy, a ventilator, and a feeding tube. His condition is terminal, and he is not expected to live past 2. 

Cori teared up as she explained to the Sheboygan Press, "He will die; there's no changing that ... But, we can make a difference in how he lives, and the difference for Charlie is that he will be loved before he dies."

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It's a ministry the whole family is on board with. Before they took in Charlie, Cori briefly considered stopping. So they had a family meeting, and their kids all agreed that they wanted to love and comfort another little soul leaving the world too soon. One of her daughters encouraged her, saying, "Mom, what if some kid really needs us and you're just sitting here with a broken heart?"

This story is so deeply moving. It shows that beauty and love can abound in even the most heartbreaking of circumstances. Cori summed up the experience of caring for terminally ill babies, saying, "We invest deeply, and we ache terribly when these kids die, but our hearts are like stained-glass windows. Those windows are made of broken glass which has been forged back together, and those windows are even stronger and more beautiful for having been broken."

 

Image via © Tim Clayton/Corbis

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