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A Foster Parent For Terminally Ill Children

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Mohamed Bzeek knows that the children he takes into his home are dying. It's an extraordinary story first reported by the Los Angeles Times. They are terminally ill kids in foster care. And Bzeek has made it his life's work to look after them. Today, his family includes a 19-year-old biological son and a 6-year-old foster child with microcephaly.

MOHAMED BZEEK: And, also, she has, like, seizures. She's blind and deaf. She has clubfoot and dislocated hips.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How do you communicate with her? She is blind. She can't hear.

BZEEK: Touch - communication, touching her, you know? She smiled when I play with her and make a little bit, like, noise, you know? It doesn't mean anything. But that shows you that, you know, she understands that somebody tried to communicate with her, you know?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mohamed Bzeek started caring for foster children when he met his late ex-wife, who was then already a foster mom. At first, they took in children who had medical issues. In 1995, they started taking in only children who were terminally ill. Over the years, Bzeek says, he's taken in about 40 children with medical problems.

How many of them have died in your care?

BZEEK: Ten. They need somebody who will be with them and take care of them, you know? It doesn't matter how hard, you know, because somebody has to do it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How do you deal with the loss when they pass away? How do you cope?

BZEEK: I mean, at church. You know, you have a kid since it was a baby, since it was one week or two weeks or a few days. And, like, some of them stayed, like, six years and four months. It's really hard. I mean, I consider them as, like, my biological, you know? And it hurts. But I believe that is part of life, you know?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you know when the foster child who is terminally ill's time is drawing near? Do you know that - when they might be close to passing away?

BZEEK: Yes. We usually - doctors - we had meeting with the doctors. And they said, there is nothing we can do for these kids. And if you want to take - leave him in the hospital here, or you take him home. We always take our kids home because I said, we're not going to abandon him. We've been taking care of them since they are babies. So this time needs us more than before, you know? So all my kids - they die in my home. Most of them - they die in my lap - holding them, you know?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What have you learned from caring for these children? What have they taught you?

BZEEK: I learned, you know, I mean, I have to be patient. And I have to be support for those people who need help. And I have to - as a human being, I have to help a human being as long as they need the help, you know?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mohamed Bzeek - he's a foster parent in Los Angeles - who has been caring for terminally ill foster children for two decades.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUKE HOWARD AND NADJE NOORDHUIS'S "FIRST HARVEST") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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