One family’s heart for babies with terminal conditions has touched people across the country and started a national conversation. Cori and Mark Salchert adopt children they call “hospice babies” – children who are not expected to experience a normal lifespan, and whose parents feel unprepared or unable to care for them through their short and often difficult lives.
Cori, a former nurse, first welcomed a hospice baby into her home in 2012. That little girl, Emmalynn, was born without the hemispheres of her brain intact. The Salchert family – including Cori and Mark’s eight biological children – loved and nurtured Emmalynn during the 50 days of her life. “Emmalynn lived more in 50 days than a number of folks do in a lifetime,” Cori wrote for Today.com. “She had not had a family, and now she was suddenly the youngest sibling of nine. We held her constantly and took her everywhere with us.”
Emmalyn died surrounded by love, on Cori’s chest as Cori sang “Jesus Loves Me.” “She'd left this world hearing my heartbeat,” Cori recalled. “She didn't suffer, she wasn't in pain, and she most certainly wasn't alone.” The Salcherts knew they could offer the love of a family to more babies who needed one. And they have; the family has taken in more children since Emmalynn’s passing. They also started the Hope After Loss Organization, or HALO, to help families whose children are facing difficult prognoses.
And hope is exactly what those families need. Many children diagnosed in utero with potentially life-threatening conditions are aborted – and often parents cite their own hopelessness as the impetus behind the choice. Medical professionals must offer resources and alternatives to termination when they give parents news of abnormalities in their children. Alternatives – like perinatal hospice – do exist. And, when all else fails, families like the Salcherts always have room for one more.
Read more of Cori Salchert’s story here.