Over $550k raised for cancer-stricken man who fostered over 80 terminally-ill children

PHOTO: Video screengrab: GoFundMe

For over 20 years, a man named Mohamed Bzeek, now 62-years-old, has been fostering abandoned terminally-ill children.

These children that no other foster families are willing to take in are often stamped with 'do-not-resuscitate' orders, overwhelming the Los Angeles Department of Child and Family Service (DCFS), which has over 600 children in need of severe medical help.

Being the only foster parent known to take in those children, the Libyan-born Muslim man became the go-to foster father whenever there is a child in need of hospice care.

“If anyone ever calls us and says, ‘This kid needs to go home on hospice,’ there’s only one name we think of,” a DCFS personnel, Melissa Testerman recounted.

“He’s the only one that would take a child who would possibly not make it.”

Bzeek has since buried over 10 foster children, and some even died in his arms. 

Bzeek visiting the gravesitePhoto: GoFundMe/ Margaret Cotts

For someone like him, one would think him deserving of good karma.

But last December (2016), Bzeek was diagnosed with colon cancer and had to undergo surgery, with no one by his side. 

His ex-wife Dawn Bzeek had died in 2014, and his only son, Adam, now 20-year-old, is handicapped with brittle bone disease and dwarfism.

Alone and petrified, Bzeek experienced what the abandoned and terminally-ill children experienced - no family, no comforting words - and set himself up to work even harder in fostering those children.

According to an update posted two months ago, Bzeek's cancer is now in remission.

Bzeek with his 6-year-old foster daughterPhoto: GoFundMe/ Margaret Cotts

His current foster daughter is 6-year-old born with a rare brain defect. The girl is deaf, mute, paralysed in the limbs and has daily seizures.

Bzeek, who is licensed through the county to care for medically fragile children, receives about US$1,700 (S$2,230) a month for the girl's care. 

Despite the tough job of caring for the disabled child, Bzeek has maintained a positive attitude, and holds onto the only means of communication with the girl by touching her, holding her, just so she could know that "somebody is with her".

Bzeek's story touched the hearts of many, but a 52-year-old woman named Margaret Cotts, who works in providing augmentative communication services to people with ALS at Low Tech Solutions, was especially touched.

Earlier this year in February, she started a fundraising campaign for Bzeek and his family, which has raised over US$437,000 (S$550,000) as of July 3. 

According to the campaign story, donations would go towards roof repairs and air-conditioning and heater installations for Bzeek's home, a new wheelchair-accessible van for transporting his children to hospital visits, hiring a nurse on days where he needs a break or additional support, and his son Adam's college education.

As of the latest update on June 24, Bzeek expressed his gratitude towards all the kind messages he received from the campaign.

Despite the heartwarming story behind Bzeek as a foster parent, some netizens were conflicted about the fundraising campaign since he was paid for the foster care he rendered.

But others thought his work done was worth more than what he was paid for.

ongymm@sph.com.sg

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