I recently read an article in Reader’s Digest about a woman, Cori Salchert of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, who has adopted two babies who little to no chance of living. Cori was a registered nurse and perinatal bereavement specialist who helped families cope with the loss of a pregnancy or newborn child. When the parents were not emotionally equipped to hold their child, Cori cradle the child in her arms so that they did not have to die alone. About five years ago, Cori was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease that rendered her unable to work. However, she was able to connect with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s treatment foster-care program and foster hospice infants.
The first baby was two weeks old and nameless with no one to care for her. She was born without the right or left hemisphere of her brain and doctors said there was no hope for her. She was in a vegetative state – unable to see or hear and only responding to painful stimuli. If left with the hospital, she would have died wrapped in a blanket and set aside since she was being sustained by a feeding pump. The hospital contacted Cori and asked if she would take the baby in.
The baby girl was given the name Emmalynn and was gifted with a full life for the 50 days she lived. Cori and her family gave Emmalynn the honor of becoming the youngest of nine children. She was held constantly and taken everywhere the family went.
When the night came that Cori knew Emmalynn was dying, the whole family held and kissed her. Cori’s husband “tucked her close with her little head tucked under his chin and sang to her”. As most of the family “drifted off” to bed, Cori and her daughter, Charity, stayed awake with her.
Emmalynn died snuggled against Cori’s furry warm bathrobe as Cori sang Jesus Loves Me.
Two years later, Cori and her family took in four-month-old Charlie. Typically a child with his type of brain damage dies by age two. His condition is not considered terminal but is “life limiting”. Charlie is on life support and has been resuscitated at least ten times in the past year. He will not be resuscitated should he code again. This time, he will be let go. Cori and her family give Charlie the best quality of life possible given his limitations.
Giving these children love and affection even though they cannot give back is considered a gift by Cori and her family. The family gives deeply of themselves, loving and cherishing these babies and grieving their loss. Cori compares her families’ hearts to stained-glass windows made of broken glass that has been forged back together. Though their hearts are broken, they are even stronger and more beautiful for having been broken.
by Leah Ultatowski – Reader’s Digest November 2016