Mother of 8, Cori Salchert, adopts hospice babies

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Cori Salchert has dedicated her life to nursing terminal babies. Photo / Cori Salchert
Cori Salchert has dedicated her life to nursing terminal babies. Photo / Cori Salchert

Cori Salchert's home is known as the "house of hope". The mother of eight and former perinatal bereavement nurse began adopting what she calls "hospice babies" - babies with life-limiting or terminal disease - in 2012.

The babies are taken on by Salchert and her family, who live in Wisconsin in the US, from parents who struggle to cope with their child's condition, or can't bear to witness the end of their baby's life.

The first baby Salchert took on lived for just 50 days. Called Emmalynn, she died in Salchert's arms.

Salchert's son, Andrew, now 16, with Emmalynn. Photo / Cori Salchert
Salchert's son, Andrew, now 16, with Emmalynn. Photo / Cori Salchert

Since taking in that first child, Salchert and her family have made it their mission to care for babies in need, many who would otherwise spend their last days in a bassinet in the corner of a hospital.

"There was no judgement on my part that the parents should just be able to deal with the circumstances," Salchert told the Sheboygan Press. "But I thought, 'Wow, I would really like to take those kiddos and care for them'."

After Emmalynn's passing, the family took on Jayden, who managed to overcome his illness and was eventually adopted by the cousin of one of his biological parents.

When Jayden left, Salchert was heartbroken. When she told her husband Mark that she was done with foster care, he disagreed, telling her it was what she was "meant to do".

Talking to the couple's eight children, Salchert asked if the family was prepared to go through the highs and lows of another adopted baby.

Cori learnt to care for Charlie who has a terminal disease. Photo / Cori Salchert
Cori learnt to care for Charlie who has a terminal disease. Photo / Cori Salchert

She was met with a resounding "yes". A week later they were matched with Charlie, who has neurological impairments and is dependent on a ventilator and feeding tube.

As Salchert was being trained by a nurse to work with Charlie's tubes she broke down, overwhelmed by the realisation that a wrong move could stop the baby breathing.

"But, God told me we're going to kick this fear in the butt," Salchert said. "It's OK to be afraid, but never let fear cripple your life."

Adopted by the family on December 18, Charlie quickly became part of the Salchert's lives, adored by his adoptive big sisters and supported by the wider community.

Salchert's daughter, Johanna, 22, helps her bathe Charlie. Photo / Cori Salchert
Salchert's daughter, Johanna, 22, helps her bathe Charlie. Photo / Cori Salchert

"He will die; there's no changing that," Salchert says. "But, we can make a difference in how he lives, and the difference for Charlie is that he will be loved before he dies."

The family has already made funeral arrangements for Charlie, with plans to send off balloons at the burial to symbolise setting his soul free from the grips of the medical limitations he experienced in life.

"These children need nurses, but the overarching thing is, they need mums," says Salchert.

"Too many people never do anything because they can't do everything and can't save everyone. For me, even though I can't help every child, I'm happy to make a difference in the lives of a few."

- nzherald.co.nz

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