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Family Takes Care of Terminally Ill Babies

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By Joan Lamar (Jul 27, 2016)
This story first appeared in the Summer issue of Marian Helper magazine. To get a free copy of the magazine, click here.

"I don't have other gifts, but taking care of terminally ill babies is the gift I have," said Cori Salchert, a registered nurse and perinatal bereavement specialist from Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Cori does not think of herself as "extraordinary," but because of her many years of nursing experience working with terminally ill infants, she's not afraid to step in and care for them. "My heart resonates for these babies," she said.

Cori and her husband, Mark, who have eight biological children, ages 14-27, have fostered and/or adopted several "hospice" babies — babies with life-limiting or terminal diagnoses whose parents had given up guardianship because of the situation.

This vocation began after Cori was struck with an autoimmune disease five years ago, which required multiple surgeries and produced other complications. Because of her illness, she left her job as a nurse, but Cori asked the Lord to use her affliction for good. The Lord took her up on the offer. In 2012, when the possibility of fostering hospice infants presented itself, the Salcherts didn't hesitate.

First, they fostered Emmalynn, who lived only 50 days — 50 beautiful, heartbreaking, priceless, privileged days. Emmalynn was missing the right and left hemispheres of her brain.

"It might be a little presumptuous to say, but we didn't bring her home to die," Cori said. "She could have done that in the hospital." Rather, they took Emmalynn home to live. They held her, loved her, and brought her everywhere. She lived more in those 50 days than many people live in their lifetime, Cori said.

On the last day of Emmalynn's life, Cori tried to feed her, but her body rejected the feeding tube. "So, I just told my children, 'She is getting ready to go to Heaven. She doesn't need this food.'" As the evening progressed, the child's limbs were getting colder. Cori put on a big, fuzzy bathrobe and held Emmalynn in "kangaroo care" — skin to skin, as close as possible. The infant's breathing grew shallower as the night progressed, and from her chest could be heard a clicking sound, often a telltale sign that the lungs are giving out.

"It was after midnight, and I hadn't heard a click, and I just lifted her up out of my robe and she was gone," Cori said. "She stopped listening to my heartbeat and she picked up God's heartbeat."

Cori believes what Emmalynn needed in those 50 days of life was the gift of her family's presence, and that's what the Salcherts feel called by God to provide for other babies as well.

More than a year ago, they adopted Charlie, now 22 months old, who was born with neurological impairments caused by a lack of oxygen in the womb and at birth. Charlie breathes by means of a ventilator. He must be fed through a tube. The machinery that keeps him alive is complicated.

"I have to know how to troubleshoot this machinery," Cori said. Initially, this was a daunting task, but she soon heard God telling her in her heart that she'll do just fine — and that when Charlie is ready to die, God will take over from there.

Cori tells her children that the first food Charlie might eat on his own may be in Heaven — and it would be the most awesome food ever!

Four of Cori's and Mark's biological children live at home and help with Charlie's care. The kids climb into bed with him. They do their homework with him. They talk to him and comb his hair.

The family's work of mercy isn't corporal alone — it's spiritual. They pray for his healing.

"He might not be healed this side of Heaven, but he most definitely will be whole and well on the other side of life," Cori said.

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anon - Jul 28, 2016

Dear Lord, please heal our souls and cure our bodies. Amen.

GLENDA - Nov 21, 2016

MAY GOD KEEP BLESSING THIS AND OTHER FAMILIES THAT ARE HELPING WITH GOD'S CHILDREN. THANKS TO GOD FOR ALL YOUR LOVE AND CARE.

Monica - Dec 9, 2016

Dear God, help us to do works of Mercy and to be your instruments of love here on earth

Steve, MD - Dec 17, 2016

God bless y'all. These children are receiving the best medicine of all - love. I send my prayers.

reetah - May 11, 2017

please pray for my son to be healed from his mental illness to be accepted by family members. give me courage and stamina lord to endure all these trials seeing my son suffering.