Sophie Kieffer is a passionate advocate for paediatric palliative care who has spent time visiting different successful paediatric palliative care programmes in Eastern and Southern Africa. She has also volunteered in similar work in South America, Nepal, and Israel.
In a blog written exclusively for the International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN) she describes a visit to Mohamed Bzeek, a man who has made it his life’s mission to care for the most vulnerable members of society – he fosters children who are terminally ill, providing them with first class care and, more importantly, unconditional love.
“As I work in the less recognised field of paediatric palliative care my friends are always eager to send me links to articles related to children and end-of-life care, so it wasn’t surprising that I was alerted by many to an article about a foster father in his mid-60’s who takes in and cares for terminally ill children. Immediately I knew I had to meet him. As fate would have it, he lives in greater Los Angeles and I happened to be going there for Passover in April. After brief email exchanges, we picked a time and, three weeks later, I was standing outside his door in Azusa, California.
I stood there for several minutes. Why was I so nervous to ring the bell? I had visited hospices in Kenya and Malawi, and had countless conversations with reluctant strangers and acquaintances about the value of palliative care. Yet here was someone who was living the work that I mostly talk about in the abstract.”
Sophie describes the visit, from the warm welcome she received from Mohamed, her encounter with his biological son who lives with Brittle Bone disease and the privilege of holding a small, fragile girl he is presently fostering who is severely brain damaged and prone to seizures.
Mohamed tells Sophie how he finds intuitive ways of connecting with each of the children he has fostered and how, with the help of a trained nurse who spends time at his home each week day, he is able to care for these children at the family home. Over lunch Sophie and Mohamed get to speak about the deeper meaning of life and the importance of their respective religions in their lives.
She writes, “Mohamed is not a doctor, a man of the cloth, nor even the biological parent to most of his children, but to him, none of this matters. He does whatever is necessary to make his children feel safe and loved – and there is no title you need for that.
Sophie holds a Master’s degree in Global Health from Georgetown University in Washington, DC and has been working with ICPCN for the past year to expand their network within the USA.
Click here to read this heartwarming blog.