Sunday, March 26, 2017
I Was a Stranger, Day 26: Mohamed Bezeek
Mohamed Bezeek, a widowed Libyan-American man in Los Angeles, takes care of the children no one else wants: he fosters medically fragile, terminally ill kids. Right now Bzeek is fostering a six-year-old girl with a microencephaly, which causes seizures and has left her blind, deaf, and mostly paralyzed. Except for his visits to the mosque (when a nurse takes care of his daughter), he spends the rest of his time by her side at their home or the hospital.
Bezeek has buried 10 children. He's the only foster parent in Los Angeles, a city of 4 million, to take in terminally ill foster children. Now 62, Bezeek came to the U.S. as a college student in 1978. He met a woman named Dawn, who became his wife. She had been a foster parent before they met. When they got married, they opened up their home to dozens of foster children and taught classes on foster parenting. By the mid-1990s, they decided to accept foster children with Do Not Resuscitate orders. And they also had their own son with Brittle Bone Disorder and Dwarfism. Now 19, he's a college student but only weighs 65 pounds and gets around in an electric wheelchair. Here's a beautiful PBS profile on Bezeek:
Dawn died a few years ago after many years of illness. But Bzeek still gets emotional when he talks about her and says she was always the strong one.
Bezeek receives $1,700 per month to care for his current foster daughter...not enough to pay for all the medical bills and medications. In February, Hailey Branson-Potts wrote a story about Bezeek in the LA Times, and word spread. The story was published just one day before an appeals judge reinstated Donald Trump's executive order to ban refugees and immigrants from countries such as Libya.
A reader was inspired to start a GoFundMe page for him, and in 24 hours, the campaign had hit and surpassed its $100,000 goal. Now it's up to $378,000, which will enable Bezeek to get central air conditioning/heating, respite care (he hasn't had a day off since 2010), his son's education, a new van, and roof repairs.
And now, this man who is the sole caregiver for his foster daughter and his son is facing his own medical challenges: he was diagnosed with colon cancer last November and is undergoing treatment.
He's been humbled by the outpouring of support. "I can't describe the feeling. You see how many nice people around us but we don't see them," said Bezeek. "There's always good in this world, more than the bad. That's what I believe."
Read more of my "I Was a Stranger" entries here.