Sheboygan family caring for children with terminal illnesses

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. - A family in Sheboygan serves as a hospice foster family, taking in children with terminal illnesses.

It’s something so difficult that many might not understand why they do it. 

NBC26 first brought you the Salchert’s story last year, and now, we want to update you update you about their little boy, Charlie.

Cori Salchert and her family treat three-year-old Charlie like any of their other children. They have eight of their own and fostered seven more, including some like Charlie, with terminal illnesses. Salchert leads the SafeHaven4Babies organization.

“We need to live like we're dying,” said Cori Salchert. “And yet we need to live like we're gonna be here another 100 years.”

They've been a foster family since 2012. Salchert is a registered nurse with hospice care experience.

Charlie has Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. Doctors initially told the family Charlie would live to be about two-years-old.

“We were kind of living day by day, not knowing for sure whether or not he was going to imminently be passing away,” said Salchert. 

But recently, a miracle happened. Charlie is thriving, well taken care of and loved by so many. Doctors told the family to plan for longer. 

“Charlie could indeed pass away at any time, simply because he could obstruct and the trachea could get blocked,” said Salchert. “You may be able to remedy that time and time and again, and he could conceivably live for another 10-12 years.”

The family was elated by the news, but in turn -- worried. Cori and her husband were concerned with their ages, finances, physically caring for Charlie.

“If you're going to live like you're living, you need to make more preparations for doing this long term,” said Salchert.

She says her faith in God keeps them going, with others in her community helping them with needs.

Keller Williams donated a van, which can now hold ten passengers and is safety regulated for wheelchairs.

Local companies also donated a wheelchair ramp and are building a four seasons room so Charlie can enjoy the sunshine and listen to birds. 

“That space would be so beautiful that be like, oh I want to hang out with Charlie, let it be my time,” said Salchert.

Cori and her family also have a 13-year-old who is terminally ill right now.

For many, doing this may be hard to understand.

“There is no quit, there is no lay down and let someone else deal with this,” she said.  

It's a family effort, one her husband says he stands behind 100 percent. 

“It's full, it's full time. But like I said, Charles is my hero,” said Mark Salchert. 

Mark explains bringing in children for hospice care has brought them all closer together and taught their children life-long lessons.

“Charles is never going to get to go fishing, never going to throw a ball, never going to grow up and grow and play and ride a bike, and I think my children appreciate the simple things in life that so many people take for granted,” said Mark. 

They want others who might be interested in taking in children to know -- it will be difficult. 

“It's going to be a whole lot harder than you ever dreamed it would be, and then on the flip side, it's going to be so much more worth it than you ever could imagined,” said Cori Salchert. 

She never wants any child to die in a hospital alone. The journey will include heartbreak in the end, but she said your heart will be so full.

“He [Charlie] was quite complicated and we were signing up for known heartache,” she said. “But that somebody had to decide that he was worth crying over. Being loved enough that you would be sad that he was not here.” 

Cori is currently writing a book that's set to be released next spring.

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent or want more information, click here.

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