The word hospice may conjure up images of a home for the aged or those diagnosed with a terminal disease. There are many organizations which run such homes, making the last days of a dying person comfortable. Perhaps society is thankful and in all practical cases, people hope that the suffering isn’t prolonged and there is an early death. But what would you say when confronted with terminally ill babies, diagnosed with impending death! Would you feel the same? Watching a little 1 year-old-child, whose future holds nothing except a few weeks till her disease snuffs the life out of her. Would you have the courage to take in such a bay and care for her till that last day?
Meet Cori Salchert, 50, a woman who actually goes through repetitive moments of sadness watching little babies live out their last days. Cori Salchert is happy about it all because she runs a hospice for dying babies. This is one magnificent human being, who takes in terminally ill babies when no wants them. She cares for them and gives them the love they deserve even if it means for a few weeks, till they are no more.
A Loving Hug Instead Of the Confines of a Hospital Bed
Cori Salchert runs her House of Hope in Wisconsin. Together with her husband and eight children, she opened the doors of her home in 2012 to adopt terminally ill babies. You’ll be surprised to know how many people lack the emotional strength to cope with their child’s condition. It is such people who have brought their babies to Cori, like the first infant, Emmalyn, diagnosed with brain damage.
This remarkable family gives to society what none really can. The love and care for a little child, who is to pass away, not in the confines of a hospital bed but cradled in the arms of human affection. Take for instance little Charlie, who suffers from brain damage and has an uncertain amount of time to live. Despite of being on a ventilator, he has received a remarkable amount of love from Cori’s family, helping him pull along till his 2nd birthday was celebrated in June.
Cori’s Vocation Is Her Answer from God
Cori’s vision and vocation were the result of her own sister Amie, who drowned in a pond outside a home for impaired children where she was admitted after contracting fatal spinal meningitis. Amie was only eleven and Cori repeatedly asked herself the question, where was God at the time. It was then perhaps that Cori felt her question was answered with a vocation that would make up for all the pain and hurt she had felt for her sister’s death. She could take on God’s work, help those little children in need of the hope, love and care in the last days of their life so that they wouldn’t face the same fate.
When Cori worked as a maternity nurse, she found herself drawn towards the cases where women delivered terminally ill babies. None of the other nurses in the hospital where she worked, wanted to do so, but she felt a need from within to reach out to the heartbreak suffered by mothers delivering dying children. It was with such a theme in mind that she began her own hospice for dying children, an organization named ‘Hope After Loss’ in Sheboygan, which would help mothers, whose babies had expired. She is helped by her daughters, one of them being Emily, pictured below, who is just 14.
A profound experience with baby Emmalyn
In 2012, Cori herself suffered a bout of serious illness and an autoimmune disease, but it did not deter her from her resolution. She was introduced to a 2 week old baby whom she named Emmalyn. The baby’s brain had been damaged to the point of being a living vegetable responding only to painful stimuli. Yet, Cori took her in. Had she not; Emmalyn would have died in a hospital blanket without a name and just her bed number.
Emmalyn lived fifty beautiful days becoming the ninth member of Cori’s family. She was given as much love and care by Cori and her children; and was even taken out for walks and outings. That fateful night when she began to deteriorate, the family took turns to cradle her.
Emmalyn died cradled close to Cori, who sang to her “Jesus loves me”. Cori felt the little baby’s life drain out of her till she stopped breathing and was no more. Emmalyn didn’t suffer the pain of the disease, nor the struggle for oxygen, she just passed away softly hearing the beat of Cori’s own heart. She wasn’t alone!!
After Emmalyn, a New Baby Boy Named Charlie Came
Emmalyn’s death touched Cori and her family so profoundly that they decided to take in more babies. It was then that Charlie came into their lives in Oct 2014, when he was just 4 months old, diagnosed with brain damage and given two years to live. The Boy was showered with attention by Cori’s family and was involved in every family celebration; both indoors and outdoors. Having lived out his lifespan, the little boy is on life support and had to be resuscitated ten times in 2015 . Sad as it may seem, but Cori has decided that they will not prolong his suffering and will not be using the AED machine should he suffer an attack, she would let him go.
Cori’s Loss Is a Sacrifice Making A Little Heart Happy
Cori sees her home as a hospice for dying children, a gift given by god. To be able to be a part of children’s lives who would otherwise be entrusted to homes like her sister Amie… To be able to provide them the warmth of human love in times of their own fatal suffering is more than what she could have asked for.
Cori admits that it is heartbreaking for the entire family when the children die, but even more heartbreaking is the fact that such children die alone, unwanted, bereft of a tender touch in times of death. Though Cori suffers the pangs of loss, it is her selfless sacrifice to know that such pain is also the instrument of an unconditional love which eases the suffering and gives comfort to a little child in time of death.