One father in Los Angeles has taken on a mission that would break anyone's heart, caring for terminally ill children in the foster care system — and yet he finds the strength each day to make life better for children who have no one else.
The Los Angeles Times recently shared Mohamed Bzeek's remarkable story. Bzeek and his late wife, Dawn, began caring for terminally ill children who had do-not-resuscitate orders in the late 1980's. The couple also has one biological son, Adam, 19, who was born with brittle bone disease and dwarfism.
“The key is, you have to love them like your own,” Bzeek, now 62, told the Times. “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 currently cares for a 6-year-old girl with a rare brain defect — the child is blind, deaf and paralyzed, and requires constant care. Bzeek is licensed through the state of California to care for medically fragile children whose own families cannot, or will not, care for them.
“I know she can’t hear, can’t see, but I always talk to her,” he told the Times. “She has feelings. She has a soul. She’s a human being.”
Dr. Suzanne Roberts, the girl’s pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, told the Times that by the time the child was 2 years old, they had exhausted all options in attempting to improve her condition. The girl, who was not identified in the article due to confidentiality laws, spends 22 hours a day hooked to feeding and medication tubes, and, according to Roberts, has only survived for as long as she has because of Bzeek's care.
"When she’s not sick and in a good mood, she’ll cry to be held,” Roberts told the Times. “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.”
In addition to caring for his own son and his present foster daughter, Bzeek has cared for children with conditions ranging from severe brain defects to terminal intestinal disorders. Bzeek is a Lybian-born Muslim who came to the U.S. in 1978 as a college student.
Melissa Testerman, a DCFS intake coordinator who finds placements for sick children, told the Times that caretakers like Bzeek are rare.
“If anyone ever calls us and says, ‘This kid needs to go home on hospice,’ there’s only one name we think of,” said Testerman. “He’s the only one that would take a child who would possibly not make it.”