Abandoned after birth when her parents were told she was born missing her left and right hemispheres in her brain, a tiny unnamed baby faced a short, terminally ill and lonely future of being left in the corner of a hospital to die.
Or would have, had it not been for the super heart of Cori Salchert.
Along with her family, Cori took in the fragile baby, named her Emmalyn, and showered her with love until the very end, making it her mission to constantly hold, love and comfort the vulnerable child.
“She’d left this world hearing my heartbeat. She didn’t suffer, she wasn’t in pain, and she most certainly wasn’t alone,” foster mum Cori Salchert told TODAY.
Emmalyn was the first of many hospice children Cori and her husband Mark have taken into the homes and hearts to love and hold until they pass away, and this is on top of caring and nurturing their eight biological children.
Their Salchert family home is known as the ‘House of Hope’ was inspired by Cori’s own upbringing - her younger sister, Amie, was disabled and lived in a children’s home. When Amie was just 11, she died at the children’s home after a terrible drowning accident. The traumatic event - and the thought that Amie died all alone - jolted Cori into a life-changing mission.
She became a perinatal bereavement nurse, and founded Hope After Loss Organisation for families dealing with the death of a newborn and became more involved in working with newborns with terminal conditions.
But now it’s fostering that is where she dedicates a lot of her time and energy. “We invest deeply, and we ache terribly when these kids die, but our hearts are like stained-glass windows,” she says. “Those windows are made of broken glass which has been forged back together, and those windows are even stronger and more beautiful for having been broken.”
And now it’s two-year-old Charlie that’s basking in the warmth of the family’s devotion. Arriving as a four-month-old, Charlie has neurological impairments and depends on a ventilator and tube feeding, among other medical challenges. But this certainly doesn’t stop the Salcherts taking him on excursions, picnics and outings.
His siblings do complain when their mother’s time is stretched or when she’s at the hospital with Charlie rather than at school performances, but they work through as a family.
By healing her past loss, Cori is making the world a kinder, softer place for children like Charlie.
“We can make a difference in how he lives and the difference for Charlie is that he will be loved before he dies.”