Foster parent, natural love

Cornelia Ille. She is 57 years old and she is from Oradea. Nearly two decades ago Cornelia was suffering from morbid obesity. But deep down her heart, she was suffering from loneliness so much that she felt she couldn’t breathe. She was always surrounded by people, but she was lacking a real human connection. As a single woman, she decided to spread the love and so she went in orphanages and hospitals with an open heart. She took home five baby girls, two of them remained with her, and the others three were adopted each by their own loving families.

Cornelia’s story is a heartbreaking one, but if we are to focus on the best parts, we could say that the love she offered saved five lives, while the love she received saved hers. And the Association of the Foster Parents which she founded with other people shows that love has saved many, many lives, a joy shared by both parents and children.

When she was 39 years old Cornelia was living alone in a two room apartment. She was born in a family with 8 children, both her mom and dad adoring children. Cornelia’s love for the little ones and her desire to help those in need was something that she inherited from her mother, who was always taking care of the poor kids from the villages nearby.

Right after the Revolution from 1989, Cornelia was working for the Trade Union and she had plenty of free time. She took all sort of classes but nothing seemed to fulfill her. She started visiting children from the hospitals, orphanages, kindergartens with a couple of her friends, and in 1990 she was told that she could even take home a child, whether in weekends or in placement, for two years, with the benefit of a maternity leave. “I liked the idea very much, especially because when I was going in the orphanages I could feel the children clinging to me, they were from three months old until three years old and all I could hear was them saying ‘mommy, mommy, mommy’”, Cornelia says.

She went to the orphanage to bring home a child and the social worker showed her 90 photos.

Cornelia then said that she was not interested in what the child looks like, she remembers that all of them were just skin and bone, with a bellyful of pap. So she asked to take home the child who was most in need. “On the 4th of november they told me: we have this little girl with 30% chances of survival, do you want her? The only thing I knew was that I wanted a baby and I said yes, I will take her, since God wanted her to get out of the orphanage, He will not let her die in my house”, Cornelia says.

The answer of a lady shocked her: “She told me ‘don’t worry, miss Neli, children have always been dropping dead, so if she dies, you can come and take another one. This was outrageous to me and I told her: ‘give me this little girl”, Cornelia says.

The baby girl was 5 months and 10 days old and she weighted 3,1 kg (almost 7 pounds). Cornelia’s parents welcomed her with lots of love – as they enjoyed taking care of children, and Cornelia’s father was feeling pretty sick, a new baby in the house was the greatest joy at that time.

After two months the baby girl was unrecognizable, she had gained weight, her twitches were gone, she could sit and was able to hold her head. “My dad was the one who told me: ‘we would better adopt this baby girl, we can’t give her back, children are not shirts you can  wash and iron and then give them back’. That was all I was waiting for, I looked into her vivid and joyful eyes and I said ‘of course I want her, how couldn’t I?’”, Cornelia says.

With the help of the “Gate of Joy” Foundation, where Cornelia is still volunteering to this day, she managed to adopt the baby girl. All the nephews were already grown up in her family,  and then there was this new baby. Cornelia continued to visit children from many institutions during her maternity leave. Being a single mom and not earning too much money, she wasn’t thinking of adopting another child. Plus, for the second child she would have needed a third room and a father to the children. She wasn’t meeting the conditions and it would have been harder for her to adopt again.

She decided, though,that since she still had all the right equipement one would need to raise a baby, she could take another girl in placement, a one month old baby girl who was abandoned in the hospital. “Just that back then I took a decision that I’ve tried to keep and I will keep trying all my life – I said this to myself: all the children that get out of institutions, either orphanages or hospitals, will not go back there. So I’ve decided through my friends, the Church, my colleagues, to find these children foster families”, Cornelia says.

For the second girl, Cornelia asked everyone, thinking that someone will fall in love with the her and will adopt her. And so it was, the second girl found her foster family, some friends of Cornelia, when she was almost 3 years old. Separating the two girls was painful, but after a while they got back in touch again.

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Cornelia continued her life along with her first girl, the time came and she went back at work, and after a time she got this call from the children’s hospital, someone was asking for her help again, a premature baby girl was abandoned there. “My work didn’t bring me much satisfaction, I wasn’t made for delegations, fights and negotiations, so I said: ‘give her to me’. She was clearly a gypsy, all dark and skinny, she was five weeks old, so I took her home. My first girl, the one I’ve adopted, helped me feed her, change her, she was the happiest in the world because she now had a baby sister”, Cornelia says.

Cornelia’s father had died, her mother was sick, so they focused on raising the little girls. The money wasn’t much, but they had all they needed, never missed anything, because they were supported by different organisations outside the country which would send sweets, toys and clothes. So, Cornelia’s mission was to find a foster family for the third baby girl as well.

Being a gypsy girl, she didn’t get much attention, Cornelia says, so she remained with her for a while longer. “I don’t know what the adoption procedures are now, but I know that back then I was disappointed, because for the Direction for the Child Protection every child was a file, a number and they don’t even know what the child looks like, what they eat, how cute they are, how vivid or how playful. And I don’t blame them, because two or three people can’t go across a whole county. I’ve looked for a foster family for this baby girl too, there was a gypsy family who would’ve been thrilled to have her, but they didn’t owned the house they were living in, so their adoption request was denied”, Cornelia says.

She kept her faith and after a while she got this call from a family who was looking to adopt and she introduced them to this third baby girl she had in placement. “As it was in the previous case, the little one climbed on her daddy knees and there it was where she stayed, today being in the eighth grade. I am sure the girls were missing a father, since we didn’t have one in our house, and when they were seeing a man, especially if he was tender and caring, their hearts would quickly melt”, Cornelia says. So the third girl was adopted by this family who was living nearby, in the neighbourhood, when she was 3,5 years old.

Although she was over 45 and she had gone through some difficult times, Cornelia kept all her things for raising a baby. And when the officials of a foundation called her and asked her to keep a little girl in placement until she would be adopted by a family in Arad, she didn’t know how to say “no” and she didn’t want to say it either. So she took the baby girl, the forth one, at her home for three weeks, until the adoption papers were done, and the baby went to her family in Arad.

And Cornelia received another call, this time from the Direction for Child Protection, regarding a girl she already knew from the “Gate of Joy” Foundation . This girl was ill, she was abused, and now she was facing some attachment difficulties, being at her third placement family. The girl was 4,5 years at that time and Cornelia accepted to take her at her home for a while. “Even though she is 11 now, she never left. There was no other solution for her, I knew her birth family, her mother was 15 years old when she gave birth. And the girl stayed with me, with all her problems, suffering from ADHD, attention deficit and behavioural problems. She goes to a normal school, while her older sister, the girl I’ve adopted, goes to an art high school, she learns to sing and play the piano – my mother died in the meantime, so here we are, the three of us left”, Cornelia says.

Cornelia wasn’t able to adopt the last girl, though she kept living with her, due to the fact that she didn’t meet the legal conditions, like having a house with three rooms. So she kept her in foster care, but she refers to her as she is her daughter. At the end of the day they are still three people in two rooms. And because her last daughter needed special assistance for doing her homeworks, Cornelia also graduated the Faculty of Psychology, Special Needs Pedagogy section, along with the training for being a foster parent which she already completed, giving up her full time job and working from time to time in different fields.

The foster care allowance was 97 RON (approx. 20 dollars) per month until three years ago, when it became 600 RON (approx. 150 dollars), and for also being a teacher for children with special needs, Cornelia received another 200 lei (approx. 50 dollars) per month. For the girl she had adopted there was no support from the government, the girl only received a regular allowance of 25 RON (approx. 6 dollars) until three years ago, when the allowance increased to 84 RON (approx. 20 dollars). And since she was adopted, the state lost interest in her.

Despite her financial problems or the hard times she faced growing children on her own, or the many others sacrifices, Cornelia feels a satisfaction which she considers to be essential: five children found families. This is exactly why Cornelia advises the parent who are thinking about taking home a child in foster care or adoption to take it only if, no matter the hard times, they can love him or her for the rest of their lives.

Besides the girl who went in Arad and whom Cornelia regrets to have lost track , all the other four girls whom she took from the institutions are now teenagers and they keep in touch, two of them still living with her and the others two with their families in the neighbourhood. For those two girls she is taking care of, Cornelia has already made her will: one will keep the apartment, and the other one the house which belonged to Cornelia’s parents and is placed in a village nearby.

Cornelia Ille 03Starting from that hole inside her heart, the lack of the love and joy Cornelia felt, she chose to offer instead, so that she could receive. The presents prepared by the girls with so much care and playfulness when it was the Mother Day serve as proof that being a parent means, above all, to love.

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This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is welcome.

A piano seen with the heart

Livia Frona. Her music teacher calls her a genius, at her 13 years old, Livia has in her portfolio countless trophees and national awards from different music competitions. Her best friend is the piano which Livia has no words to describe, because she was born blind. She considers herself being a normal child, but the emotion you can feel when she is playing something is beyond normality. Like her decision to live joyful seems to come from another world where one can feel more than see or speak.

Livia was born prematurely, her mother remembers she was under six months when she was brought to the world. Since her retina hasn’t had enough time to develop, Livia was born without sight. Her parents asked the help of many specialists, inside and outside the country, in Italy, but all of them considered that Livia has no chance to see.

When she was almost 5 years old, her mother had a dream, this voice was telling her that Livia should play the piano. Taking it as a divine inspiration, her mother took Livia at a piano club in Roman, since it was near the village they lived in. Livia was holding her first trophee only after six months. It was a proof of the talent she was gifted with, especially that no one in her family wasn’t passionate about music. “For me the piano means great joy, and I don’t find it difficult at all to sing. I just need to rehearse, and if I rehearse a lot, nothing is difficult anymore. Music is passion for me so all I do I do it with pleasure”, Livia says.

Livia Frona 2Learning at the “Moldova” Special High School in Târgu Frumos, Livia managed to mix her study with the piano classes, rehearsing six hours every weekend. One of her favourites composers is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and two year ago she had the chance to visit his memorial house in Salzburg. The journey in Austria was a gift for her and her family, and it was offered to her during a TV show.

We were there for three days, Livia was the most excited because she finally got to Mozart’s house and she was able to touch his piano and other things that belonged to him. I think that this trip will remain for a long time in her memory as a special one”, Livia’s mother, Angela Frona, says.

Livia Frona 3Like the Austrian composer when he was a child, Livia’s auditory memory overpasses the one of an adult. Livia can memorize rapidly difficult passages, playing them as if it is the simplest thing on Earth. Like she did with Frederic Chopin’s Nocturna.

Livia is also passionate about reading, especially Science Fiction, and she does is it in Braille or she listens to audio books. “I have more favourites, if I were to tell you some, I would recall Les Miserables, Hunger Games, Of Mice and Men, The Invisible Man. I like them because they have adventure, a lot of action, I don’t like simple books, they are something else. I could say music is also an adventure, when I get a new sheet music and I have to discover it. If I really like it, I never get bored”, Livia says. The way she plays the compositions seems to be just another way for creating a world of her one, one in which eyes have the shape of a heart.

Livia Frona 4Her dream now is to study at the Music Conservatory. Since in Romania are no music sheets in Braille, her parents did all they could to get her ones from Italy. “After we left from Roman we found a teacher at the ‘Octav Băncilă’ High School who is pleased to teach Livia twice a week. With the help of some people, we have received this music sheets, we have translated them in black for the teacher, so she could also understand the Braille alphabet, and while she was reading, Livia was following her on the music sheets in Braille, in Italian, because there was no other way”, Livia’s mother says.

This way, Livia managed to play the songs, proving that everything is possible when you love. And this is also her message for the other children whom have only met the piano or they will soon do.

And Livia fully does it, because she is a joyful child with a big smile, and contrary her delicate look, her determination passes over every barrier. The darkness she steps in makes hear dears one sad, but Livia’s teacher believes that sometimes the lessons are given on the other side of the cathedra. During a class, Livia told her that people wouldn’t be so sad, If they would have faith.

She believes that the world can be a better place and, if it were in here power to change something, she would like people from everywhere to get to know peace. The same one she feels when she touches the piano keyboard and there is no place left for the noise, once the wonder of sounds is on.

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This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is welcome.

Brittle bones, the heart of gold

Sorin Focuță. Some people know him as the man who suffers from Lobstein disease, an illness also called brittle bones. Even more people, though, know Sorin as a friend. He is unable to move, but from his soul and with the help of technology, Sorin shares the joy of being alive with all his dear ones. With all those who have become part of a wonderful story about dignity, love, and gratefulness. Because Sorin never wanted to live in other conditions, moreover, he was always thankful for his own.

Sorin was born 46 years ago in a neighborhood near Bacău. He was the fourth child, but he only met his 8 years older brother. The middle ones, a girl, and a boy died when they were little, being diagnosed with the same illness as his: Lobstein disease, a mutation that affects the production of collagen and drives to bone fractures.

The doctors didn’t give Sorin either too many chances of living, best case scenario he would have lived until his full age, so they proposed his mother to get an abortion. But she chose to keep him, and his life didn’t stop as they thought it would. And Sorin never wished it did, in spite all the hard times he has faced.

He managed to walk just for a while when he was one year old, but after two months he suffered a thigh bone fracture which left him unable to step anymore. He was a joyful child and there were a lot of moments when he dared to go out and play again, just after his bones were broke. They were fixing themselves as quickly as they were breaking, again and again, so a lot of them bent.

His mother took him often to the hospital until he was three years old and she finally understood that there was no cure for his illness. She decided that it’s better for him to stay home and she did her best to take care of him. Sorin was glad about her decision and he laughs when he remembers about his childhood, although it wasn’t quite easy. “I had this stroller from which I used to fall down, one of his wheels used to fall, so I was rolling over. My bones were broken, my mom used to come and pick me up, I was just like a puppet, with my bones clattering. I was in my room for two weeks, crying, but when the pain was over, I could instantly smile again”, Sorin says.

He really enjoyed the time he had with his family and he took advantage to shape his mind and his soul. He learned to read using some letters cut from magazines because he was unable to go to school and he never really saw one. But he didn’t let that get him down, he did a great job learning by himself. He was always surrounded by books and he was frequently outside in the neighborhood, playing with the children whom would invent ways to make him part of their games and to learn together.

Also, Sorin got a friend in his bigger brother with whom he did all kind of pranks when their parents were missing, like playing football on the board that was used to make the guests table bigger. Sorin was using his hands and different objects to make the game funnier, also he was passionate about chess and when the games were over he used to sew. “I was looking at my mother, how she was sewing all kind of models, and I wanted to do the same. I used to knit smaller crochees, my left hand was harder to use, it bent faster than the right one, so I was holding the crochee within the fingers of my left foot and I was knitting with my right hand. I even made a dress for a doll once, my mom was receiving orders for tailoring and I did everything she did or my brother did. I solve rebus, I played rummy, backgammon, cards, I did all kind of stuff”, Sorin says.

In his adolescence, though, was the last time when he could use his hands and sit. In the image below he’s next to his brother, his parents, and his godfather.

A fracture at his right arm when Sorin was 16 years old left him unable to move very much, he stood in bed so hix bone could get fixed, but he couldn’t move his back got stuck and it’s been 30 year since he remained there, with his arms open.

Short after Sorin broke his arm, his father died in a work accident, he was a builder in civil engineering. Sorin’s mother struggled to raise her boys and to get a disability support pension for Sorin, they had financial issues. Until then, Sorin father’s was the one to bring food home to his family, but with God’s help and with help from some people, as Sorin says, life went on. And he learned to occupy his time in another way and even to help others, it was his turn now.

He received a laptop and a Kindle device, he learned informatics, English and he continued to read e-books and to edit articles for those who have asked for his help, without taking any money. “I didn’t want to work like that, to make money on the Internet. I’m not that kind of human being when I do something, I just do it, from love, friendship and inspiration, sometimes I even wrote a poem, but I didn’t want to get more involved”, Sorin says.

His biggest earn that technology brought him was friendship. Sorin met a lot of people, some of them are visiting him regularly, and this makes him happy. As a fact, Sorin knows that happiness cannot be immobilized.

And because Sorin is passionate about the beauty of nature, the flora and fauna, his friends made him a summer house in his yard. A place where he moves in when the weather gets warm and he receives his guests, people, flowers, and birds, in a world that seems less like time, and more like forever.

Sorin thinks that this is just a phase on his way to joy, and even if he had to take a sleeping pill sometimes, to forget about his pain, he is grateful for every single moment of being awake, like he has received a precious gift. And this is also his advice for the young ones, to be grateful and happy for all, without imagining that their life would be better different. The simple fact that they are alive is a wonder.

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This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is welcome.

A struggle with alcohol, a lesson of an open heart

Paul Fron, he is a national champion in Athletics, a former physical education professor and a veteran in fighting alcohol. Ten years have passed since Paul last had a drink, as he desires to feel life. He had reached the point where all his dreams had been lost, along with all his money. People he used to love distanced themselves from him, and his attempts of quitting his addiction were successful only for a while. He was looking so desperately for help, that when help arrived, it took him three therapy sessions to believe help was possible, as it seemed unreal. The Alcoholics in Recovery Clubs Association (A.C.A.R.) was for Paul the perfect place to open up his heart. He learned how to cope with his pain in another way, so he could make some room for joy.

Paul is now 55 years old, he was born in a family with 11 children and he was raised in a spirit of solidarity. He describes himself as being a fighter, he loved sports, so his youth was marked by training and competitions. He met his future wife in Iasi, where he came to study. They got married, they had two boys and for a while, they lived with his wife’s parents. Some misunderstandings took Paul to a level of pain which he had no idea how to handle.

I started to go out for a drink with friends, a drink turned out to be many drinks. Until then I wasn’t used to drinking, maybe at a party or something, but it wasn’t a habit, being an athlete I couldn’t afford to miss my training. But being naive and honest, many years went by until I realized that those friends were my friends only when I offered them something to drink. If I had a conflict at home, a fight, I ran to the bar, today with a friend, tomorrow with another one…This is how I followed the crowd and after a few years I woke up at the ‘Socola’ Psychiatric Hospital”, Paul says.

His visits at the Psychiatric Hospital were more and more frequent, so Paul started to ask himself what he could do to quit drinking. He tried by himself in many ways, he even went to some AA meetings, but he didn’t seem to fit anywhere. “I was somehow embarrassed too, besides my mom, everyone had abandoned me, all those friends. I took a break, six months, one year, I thought I was healed, able to go to a party, able to drink a glass of wine, but I ended up in the same place, one glass, two glasses, five glasses, there I was, at the Psychiatric Hospital”, Paul says.

He managed to run away once from the hospital and now he laughs when he remembers how he ran to his house in his pajamas. But at that time, his problem was getting worse. “It was an illusion, I was feeling better just for the moment when I was drinking , but the quantity was increasing, I was in need of more and more alcohol, my thoughts were never gone, they were even worse, I guess this is related to how much you think or you feel sorry about From my point of view, it was just like sinking sands – the more I drank, the more I got stuck”, Paul says.

His career was affected, because of his numerous hospitalizations, and Paul had to give up sports and his job as a teacher. Money spent on alcohol was meant to pay the bills, and sometimes Paul even sold some things from his house, to buy the drinks. He wasn’t quite able to set a good example for his boys, and his wife was exhausted. Also, his wife’s sister had mortgaged the house they were all living in, and they had to move, as they’ve lost the house. Paul and his family went to Podu Iloaiei, in his mother’s apartment, and kept on trying to find a cure for his addiction.

He then met Ovidiu Alexinschi at the Psychiatric Hospital MD, a psychiatrist, but also the manager of the Alcoholics in Recovery Clubs Association (A.C.A.R.). Paul accepted his invitation to participate in a support group therapy by Hudolin’s method, a program held in 34 countries which focuses on long-term abstinence and on changing the person’s lifestyle.

Paul met at the club a community formed by people who struggled with alcohol, their relatives, and special mediators. He joined the community with his wife and only after three meetings Paul was confident in those activities when he managed to cope with his withdrawal.

I was enraged and unsatisfied, at the same time, I wanted someone to pay attention to me, you know..There are desperate people who make gestures they don’t really want to do, in this negative way. I gave up the first time, also the second, but in the third meeting I finally understood what is all about and It fitted me like a glove. I care a lot about my family, I’ve suffered tremendously, we had these episodes when we were apart, my wife was gone in Italy, my boys also lost their ways, I wasn’t there for them, and this club had this specific purpose: to bring the family together”, Paul says.

The first three years of meetings managed to keep Paul away from alcohol. He knew how drinking could affect his body and he also saw the way it had affected his relationships with his family- his brothers had also rejected him because of his addiction. The illusion of healing fooled Paul one more time, so he relapsed. That was the moment he realized that he needed to say “goodbye” to alcohol once and for all, and he has done so for 10 years now.

There is life without alcohol and you can have fun without it, but more than that, in 10 years I’ve done things I didn’t do in all my life. Because until then all the plans I’ve made when I got married got vanished, I was feeling remorseful, and all this stuff brings you in such a state of mind, that you end up wanting to commit suicide. I tried getting over it and I’ve opened up my heart, and all these things vanished since I stopped fooling myself. I got rid of all my unsuccesses, I’ve brought my family together again, I’ve worked outside the country, as my wife did, my boys managed to graduate, I’m very happy”, Paul says.

He worked as hard as he could, especially physically, to distract himself from alcohol. He doesn’t hate alcohol, he knows this could produce another relapse, and on the contrary, Paul makes wine, so he can offer it to his guests, at holidays. But he stopped drinking it, those 15 years of losing control over his life are proof that he doesn’t want to go back there. He is aware that he was the only one responsible for what happened back then and that he is also responsible for his choice of living a happy life now.

Paul managed to regain his trust in himself and his self-esteem, he took care of his mother who had died two years ago, and he was accepted again by his brothers. He continued to come at the A.C.A.R meetings, not only to encourage those struggling with this addiction but also because here he found another family. He made new friends and he understood that, more than ever, his heart needed to be open.

This was the lesson he learned during his life, to acknowledge his pain and joy and share them, not hide in alcohol. And to make room for true friendships, because Paul’s greatest contentment is to help others, regardless their needs, as he was also helped when he admitted his weakness.

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This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is welcome.

 

A parent of an angel and a smooth flight

Bianca Brad. “Miss Beauty Princess”, actress, TV host. An extremely beautiful woman whose brightness makes you stop and stare. She seems to be from another world and, the truth is, her brightness embodied her face after a long time of sorrow. She was expecting a baby girl 11 years ago, but the little one was stillborn.

Since then Bianca became the mother of an angel and, in a time when Romania had no form of support for parents who had lost their babies, Bianca founded the E.M.M.A. Organisation. In the memory of her baby girl, Bianca brought together those parents who never had the chance to hug their babies and helped them give life a meaning when life seemed to end with their little ones.

What was Bianca’s childhood like?

Bianca remembers she was a very good child, unlike her two old brothers who did all kind of crazy stuff. She grew up in a one bedroom flat, along with her brothers and parents. Her parents met at a party when dancing, so Bianca’s father taught her the art of tango and waltz. The beginning and the end of her childhood were marked by incidents that could have left her for dead.

When she was one year and few months old, she sneaked behind her mother’s back and went into the kitchen where there was boiling water and, curious as she was, she pulled the jug and all the water fell over her. She was seriously burnt and she was one step away from sepsis. Also, when she was 14 years old, she wound up in a coma in hospital, after a motorcycle accident. The motorcycle drove by her cousin was hit by a car whose driver didn’t look up before going his way. The helmet she was wearing was the one that saved her life.

She was fascinated by the idea of traveling, she enjoyed observing people and she couldn’t stand injustice. So she dreamed of becoming an air hostess or to study Psychology or Law. At her mother’s advice, who wasn’t allowed to become an actress, Bianca took the dream one step further and made it real. She fell in love with acting and modeling, so in 1991 she won the title of “Miss Beauty Princess”, and also she fell in love with Television, so she was very popular.

How come her career took a second place?

Although she was a shy and introverted person, she got noticed by professionals from these fields and she got her first roles right from the beginning of her career. She was at her best when she was just 22 years old when she met her future husband, a German man. “I fell in love and I forgot about everything. He was studying in Romania, we met in his final year of University and he had to go back to Germany. I had to choose between my career and my heart. And as it’s said ‘love is blind’, I left in Germany and I ditched everything. People were telling me that I wasn’t thinking straight, that I didn’t know what I was doing, that it was a terrible mistake, because I had the odds on my side, the world was mine, but I couldn’t care less, I thought that for me love was everything I needed”, Bianca says.

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And for 8 years love everything she needed, Bianca followed her husband and she continued to work as an actress in Germany. One of her roles was quite the one of an air hostess, so Bianca got to travel, making her dream come true. Her career seemed to evolve, she earned for a single episode as much as she would for at least two years of shooting, in Romania.

Why did she come back from Germany to Romania?

The relationship with her husband, however, didn’t work out, so Bianca chose to come back in Romania. “It was extremely difficult for me to come back, I never managed to get back to the level I was before leaving. It’s true that my priorities changed, but, looking behind, if I were to find a common pattern, practically I’ve always sacrificed my career for my personal relationship”, Bianca says.

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She chose to put love in the first place again, so she started a new relationship, and in 2005 she gave birth to her first baby, a boy named Luca. “When you become a mother everything changes, I was fully present for my family. The first three months I wouldn’t even go outside my house, I had a big pillow and I used to put Luca on it and just stare at him. Instead of getting some rest, I was looking at him, I was absolutely fascinated, melted by the love I had for him”, Bianca says.

Why was her girl stillborn?

Almost two years later she was to give birth to her second baby, a girl named Emma Nicole. The ultrasound showed the baby was suffering from Tetralogy of Fallot, a heart malformation. Without explanations about the congenital disease, Bianca was asked if she was sure she wanted to go further with the amniocentesis, and her reply was a positive one.

The malformation was confirmed, so Bianca, without telling her dear ones about the baby’s disease, looked for solutions for the moment when the baby girl would be born. There was a possibility of a surgery immediately after birth, because of her serious malformation and the risk of dying, so Bianca and her doctor decided to go to Germany, a place where the surgery would’ve been possible.

With a day before the C-section, Bianca checked in near the hospital, in a house for parents who didn’t have another possibility of staying in Germany. The next day she went to the hospital for the last ultrasound and to find out the hour she was scheduled for the intervention. Then is when she found out that her baby girl’s heart stopped beating. Because of her malformation, Emma Nicole was smaller and she spanned round more in the amnion which caused a knot in the umbilical cord. The baby girl stopped living with only a few days before.

She wished she could get sick of cancer, after she has finished her elaborate research of ways to die, without being seen as a selfish person. Most of her dear ones didn’t know how to support her, so her grief was turning bigger. The relationship between her and the father of her children was also affected and in Romania were no institutions, websites or books to help the parents who lost their babies.

Why did Bianca decide to speak in public about her pain?

Reading a lot from the books she had found in different countries about the traumas of other parents that didn’t get the chance to hold their babies, Bianca realized she was not alone in all of this and she saw how much it meant for her to learn from other people’s experiences. At the same time, there were some distorted details about her story in the Media, so Bianca, listening to the advice of one of her friends, chose to open up her heart and publicly speak about her experience, willing to help all the parents in Romania whose babies are in Heaven.

She wanted to know other parents’ stories so she could put them in a book. She was afraid of what people could say and for a long time she hesitated to go further, but the desire of helping others was stronger. “I showed up and I spoke about it and from that moment on my entire life changed again. I got over 1500 messages in two days, it took me months to read them all and what I’ve seen there made me want to do something about it. It just couldn’t end like that, there were awful stories, mothers telling me how they were treated in the hospital, how their babies were thrown into the trash in front of them, put in some plastic bags, some horrific things”, Bianca says.

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So she ended up organizing her first event, so if on 8th of March it was celebrated the mothers’ day, on 9 of March she chose to celebrate the Mother of the Angels day and balloons were released in the memory of the babies. The words “mother of an angel” or “father of an angel” have a meaning now for all the parents who, even though they had a baby, they are not recognized as parents. And the event didn’t stop there, Bianca did more than just writing a book, she founded E.M.M.A. Organisation in the memory of her baby girl, so The Parents’ of Angels Day was celebrated every year, in several cities across the country.

Just like on 15th of October the babies and the children from the entire world are commemorated, people light up candles and, thanks to the time zone, The Wave of Light is created. Romania joined The Wave since 2010, through E.M.M.A. Organisation, the same Organisation that created a support group for parents across Romania. On the E.M.M.A. Organisation’s website were published countless information useful for parents going through similar experiences and also for their beloved ones.

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Why the logo of the E.M.M.A. Organisation includes a swallow?

In the logo of the E.M.M.A. Organisation you can see a swallow, a symbol of Emma Nicole. One month after she died, when the coffin was finally brought to Romania, and a priest accepted to hold the funeral mass, although she wasn’t baptized, a swallow entered the Church and she wouldn’t get out until the end of the mass. The priest resembled the swallow with Emma’s soul like her soul had come back home, and from that moment swallows were present in Bianca’s family many times.

Luca si Emma (12)

Once, a swallow entered their home and quietly waited to be photographed, looking directly into the camera. Bianca would find out that in Greece, for example, swallows symbolize the soul of the passed away children.

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Through the years Bianca learned hot to relate with her daughter, although she couldn’t touch or see her like she could do with swallows, there were a few specific words that she clinched and that she said non-stop at first, which helped her rise and help others further. Those words were part of a simple prayer Bianca had heard in the footage she had shooted first time when she got to Germany. And which she remembered the day she was told that her little girl’s heart stopped beating.  

God, grant me the power to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.

Years after, you can see it in her eyes, that the prayer is now within her, part of her, bringing peace within her being and bringing peace and even life in the other parents’ hearts because Bianca literally saved people from death. “In 2008, when I was on TV, there was this announcement made for more mothers to come and speak about this topic. It was for the first time I asked somebody from Mass-Media to help me like that. Among the mothers that came, there was one of an angel, she had given birth to twins, a girl, and a boy. The baby girl died, she didn’t see her, she didn’t know what had happened to her. The baby simply vanished, at the hospital, they told her that she died and that was all.

And I was impressed because her husband saw that this show will be on air and he was the one pushing her to come. And at the end of the show, this mother that had suicidal thoughts, came to me, grabbed my hand, and thanked me, she told me I was the reason she was alive, and it wasn’t the only one. I was so touched and then I knew I was doing the right thing”, Bianca says.

How did she manage to share her faith?

In a time when there was no explanation to those questions that started with “Why?”, the way Bianca shared her story gave a reason for the trauma and an explanation: now she could help others. “If it’s beautiful to share the joy with someone, it’s a must to share the burden, so you can bear it. No matter how hard is it and how lonely you feel, you must not forget God is there”, Bianca says. She learned how to share her joys and burdens with the father of her children again.

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Bianca spent the last decade going on journeys into the deepest emotions of the people’s hearts, volunteering on guiding them on the path of making peace with what seems to be an injustice when losing a child. Those three roads she saw possible in her childhood, Traveling, Psychology and Law, seem to have found an unexpected way of merging. Sometimes, Bianca walked this road with others until exhaustion, but she doesn’t regret it. She knows that her work is worth all of it because Romania now has a support organisation for parents whose babies have been lost. And countless examples of the way life has found, just like swallows, a bright flight forward.

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For support and more information, the website of the E.M.M.A. Organisation: http://www.organizatiaemma.ro/EMMA_english

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This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is welcome.

Cancer, the disease that brought her back to life

Cosmina Grigore. I could present her to you as she was before 2013, and as she is now. You may know her as she was before, since Cosmina had a sparkling career in Communication and Public Relations. She worked for British Embassy in Romania, Tarus Media, Oracle and for a lot of projects, until the Universe gave her a task of her own: to stay alive. Cosmina full-hearted believes that the breast cancer she was diagnosed with in 2013 came to heal her of a death she had already metaphorically experienced.. And since not only the metastases can spread, but healing as well, from that moment on her entire family rolled over into a process of loving life, listening to the message that cancer came with. So you may also know Cosmina as she is now – nutritionist, patient coach, president of the Imunis Association, Pilates instructor but, most of all, lifestyle designer of her own existence. And of those people over whom Cosmina blows off a bit of her magic gifts.

When she was a little girl, Cosmina, whose name recalls of Cosmos, dreamt of dying somewhere in space, outside her planet, so she could get to know the Universe even more. And this wish to see beyond what her eyes could perceive seems to have followed her. She was that person who had the most outrageous ideas and she could never hide them. So most of her colleagues weren’t very thrilled with her, they had always something to work for, as a consequence of her creativity for which they weren’t prepared. Her little sister, tough, was fascinated and she kept on walking by Cosmina’s side everywhere, so she could learn from her.

Now and then along her timeline, Cosmina met people who seemed to hold the key to a new level of her becoming. A university teacher, an ambassador, bosses that she calls friends, pieces of a harmony-puzzle that was wisdomly prepared by faith, although the pieces didn’t seem to match to each other. “I grew up in the hospital, my mom was a nurse, my father a physician, so I’ve spent many nights there, I was basically the hospital’s kid. My desire to help people grew more and more and, many times, they would catch me next to an old man’s bed, ready to put him on a drip. They always came on time, I wasn’t doing any harm, but I felt this need of helping others, the same need I feel now. If I see someone who is suffering or is dealing with an injustice, my interior riot starts and I keep on thinking how to work it out”, Cosmina says. She would  have love to become a doctor, but she refused to go that way, because she hated to do as she was told to. Since her father was a physician and he would want Cosmina to follow his path, she chose another way: communication.

She was that type of person who, if you would kick out through the door, she would come back through the window and even create a new door, if there wasn’t any other way. When doctors told her that she will not be able to have children, because of her hormonal imbalance, Cosmina decided to try in vitro fertilization. She wanted to be a young mom and she was sure that one of her new work colleagues would be a great dad. “I told him, knowing that I couldn’t have children, that I would need to do in vitro fertilization and that I would like him to be the father of my children. He answered me back through a text message that we should first be together. I didn’t know he was into me and I didn’t know how much I was into him. And we started very technical. he was going to his sister in Scotland and he was coming back on 16th of august, so we decided to be together as soon as he would return”, Cosmina says. And they were and they still are.

A few months later, sad that she couldn’t have a baby, Cosmina wanted to share some Christmas gifts to the children that were growing at Valea Plopului. The priest that was taking care of the little ones told Cosmina and her husband that they were expecting a baby and that they should get ready. The ultrasound proved that to be right, so in less than a year, Cosmina and her husband, both 23 years old, were a family, being the parents of a baby girl.

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Back in 2013, the baby girl was 4 years old, and Cosmina and her husband were 28. Since her parents’ divorce all sort of changes took place and Cosmina felt like she was running out of air. The walk to the office suddenly seemed to be a highway to hell, she had given her best, until burnout. Her relationship with her husband was crumbling, there were pressures from the outside. Cosmina tried to figure out the direction she was going to walk further, of the following four months.

She had a pain that was ruining her existence and one day that pain became visible, when one of her breasts was looking different. “The first two doctors I went to told me that everything is fine, to relax. But my condition was worse and I went to another doctor, in the morning I got an X-ray and at noon she told me to come back for the mammography. I figured out something was wrong, but I wasn’t by far thinking at cancer, not even for a second, I didn’t think I could have something like this. She told me the diagnostic that was later confirmed by the sector resection, there was a carcinoma, almost stage II, with three invasive focuses”, Cosmina says.

Her first reaction was to get angry- for the first time she planned a holiday trip with her husband and now they were going to cancel it. She realised the severity of the situation only after she talked to her mother on the phone and she heard her crying out loud.

She suffered a mastectomy, 23 ganglia were removed one of them with a metastasis. The normal process would have been radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy, but Cosmina followed only radiotherapy. One of her ex bosses and actual friend had just become a Health Coach and she helped Cosmina change her diet. Cosmina struggled to give up meat, dairy, cheese and eggs, suffering from withdrawal. She had instead a table full of all sorts of supplements and nutrients which she had never heard of and starting that moment they were going to help her recover. Lots of her symptoms got better and since Cosmina wouldn’t get any answers to some of her questions about chemotherapy and hormonal therapy, she consulted her doctor and she decided not to go further with them, even if many people told her that otherwise she will survive less than a year.

12985573_10208687743567258_2492476113829488310_nShe started reading, so she could understand her disease better. She thought that her cancer wasn’t there for nothing, it had a message for her. She understood that she had invested in that disease, by her chaotic schedule of working and sleeping, by exhaustion and by the lack of a relationship with her body. Even since her parents’ divorce, Cosmina had a lot of stuff to deal with that she didn’t know how to manage.

She expected that starting with her disease she will receive more attention and love, but her plans didn’t worked out as she thought they would, causing her even more suffering. So she found a way to blend the idealist part of her personality with the pragmatic one and she created a new ideal: to live. And to give herself the love she was expecting to receive from others. “The negotiation with God was like this: if You let me live, as long as you let me live I will find a way of being useful. At that time I had no clue how, at first I was a volunteer for children diagnosed with cancer, but I couldn’t do this anymore, I wasn’t strong enough”, Cosmina says.

The years 2013 and 2015 were full of interior battles, from wanting to be dead to fearing of dead and than loving life, but Cosmina’s hard times didn’t stop there. She was nearly having a divorce, her father was also diagnosed with cancer, a bowel cancer in the IVth stage, with hepatic metastasis and he would lose the fight three years later. Also, Cosmina broke her hip while she was rollerblading with her daughter. “I thought that if you get sick with cancer, you are granted for life, nothing serious happens to you again. And I realised that it wasn’t like that, no, cancer is one way ticket that you can use, but you still have to work for life. Breaking my hip got me to bed and feeling useless, so after many others lessons, I thought about the things that I could do while I was in bed and I started a website for patients with cancer, and I started writing”, Cosmina says.

Also, she was reached by a patient with cancer and step by step Cosmina gave up her job and became a nutritionist, patient coach, Pilates instructor and even a president of the Imunis Association that she founded with her family and friends. Through her Association she held for free the New Patient Caravan in more than 20 cities all over the country and she informed and supported the patients with cancer in their recovery process, creating a support group. To sustain her other activities, she organised immunity retreats and even a started school with different modules for patients, so she could teach them in detail about what she had learned from cancer.

Her new way of treating herself, being present in her life and loving herself taught her also how to deepen her relationship with her husband. Both of them realised that, no matter the pressures from the outside, they are the core that needs to stay altogether and from that moment on they are working consciously for their unity, allowing nothing from the outside to influence them. Years went by until Cosmina managed to look at her body and find it feminine, without crying, to look at her hair that grew longer again, and, instead of her missing breast, to look at her beating heart. She came back to herself and to those who were loving her, even if their language wasn’t always the same.

20150919_112814And, specific to her, she got to promote a new idea people weren’t ready for: cancer came to heal her. And she is more than happy that she was sick, as she is happy everyday for being alive. She knows that, even if her dad is gone, cancer brought healing in his life too, because in his last years of life he got back to his family. And the pieces of the puzzle seem to match now even more.

Cosmina writes her feelings down  in a diary ever since she was in the VIth grade. In a moment she had hard time she wrote down that, if she would suffer from cancer, she could die, and that seemed to be a solution to end the pain. She changed her note and, instead of looking at cancer as a solution to die, she end up seeing it as a solution to live, to love, to be alive. And she hopes that one day she will be able to go to Africa, to help the children who, sometimes, don’t have the chance to enjoy life for many years.

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This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is welcome.

 

A love beyond death

Bianca Năstase. She dreamed of becoming a doctor, but instead, she ended up being a teacher. I believe there is no such thing as a coincidence since her story seems to be a life lesson. Bianca has been taking care  of both  bodies and souls. She got married to a man in a wheelchair and they had three kids – one of them with disabilities, and another one on the way when they were in a car crash. Her husband died and the baby and Bianca  survived, despite the odds. The life she lived could easily be turned into an award-winning movie. Bianca lost a lot: her beloved husband, parts of her soul, even her engagement and wedding rings. However, she never lost the love of her life. And she has conquered life – which’s architecture Bianca has learned to fully enjoy.

Bianca didn’t fail any of her exams when she was a student. She was so fascinated with the sea, that she was counting down the days left until she could go to Vama Veche and camp  on a wild beach. She used to go with a friend of hers, and they would spent all day swimming, and all night reading poetries, under the moonlight. It was the summer vacation after her third year of college when she has met her future husband. They met in a pub, the terrace was full, and since her future husband was in a wheelchair, he didn’t need a seat, so he just asked her if they could share the table.The dawn of day surprised them in the same spot, still talking. “The next day I already knew I was going to marry him. He asked me ‘Baby girl, what are we going to do if this fire keeps on growing?’ And I simply replied <<We’re gonna get married>> ”, Bianca says.

13710022_1801937450035433_7985137823498920562_nShe was amazed by his wisdom and by how Florin confronted all the impediments of being an architect. He grew up in the communist era when drawing didn’t seem to feed off, so he was obliged to properly work in a factory. But he didn’t give up on his dream – he dared following his dream even after a train accident left him without both of his legs. He always thought that that experience was something he needed, for his soul to be pulled out of the troubled waters he was in at that time and be put back on the right track. He managed to get a Master’s Degree, he was working as an architect, he was driving an adapted car and he was in love with Bianca. “I could see it in his eyes that he liked me, it was obvious, but it felt that he would die if I was to be gone. And I had this thought: finally a man that, although he is without legs, he is on his own feet”, Bianca says.

She called home ten days after they met. “My parents already knew from my friend who got back a few days earlier that I met a man without legs, and that I was calling them to let them know that I’m getting married. They didn’t approve of the marriage, my father thought that I’ll be over it in six months, so he didn’t allow me to go further with my decision until then. Florin  and I counted the days until the and since he was from Prahova and I was from Iasi, we talked  on the phone every night”, Bianca says.

Bianca (22)Her parents realized there was no turning back, and so the wedding took place, Bianca being 23 years old and Florin 31. They lived in different cities, until they’ve found their piece of Heaven, Bianca says, a village named Bughea de Sus. Not only her dream of living in a big city didn’t come true, but she had to go through the swamp five times a day so she could get home, full of mud. But she was so happy, that they’ve moved in before the walls were ready and there were no doors, so Florin had to make some walls on his own, some sliding doors on roller-bearings.

Teodor, Dimitrie, Ecaterina were born and only a few months later Varvara was on the way. Dimitrie was diagnosed with spastic tetraparesis, so he wasn’t talking and he was barely moving. The only things he could do and never stopped doing was to look deeply into the heart of the others and to laugh. “I just couldn’t wrap my head around his joy since I wasn’t feeling the same thing. I thought that only a crazy mom could feel joy for her disabled baby.  But my husband resonated with that bliss and he was the one supporting me through this”, Bianca says.

Bianca (8)And he kept on doing so until 20th of December 2005. “We had just moved into our new house three days prior, Dimitrie was three years old at the time and he had an appointment with his physician. Teodor was five years old and he had a festivity at his kindergarten that day, so we left him there. We also left Ecaterina who was eight years old with my goddaughter, for a few hours. And we left with Dimitrie, my husband was the one was driving. I was feeling very sick, Dimitre was crying louder and louder, because I’d moved in the front seat and I’d told him that I wasn’t able to turn around anymore, so my husband looked for a second in the rearview mirror. We crashed into a cement mixer”, Bianca says.

Her husband, although he had suffered severe injuries, told the doctors to take care of Bianca, because she was three months pregnant, and the doctors did as he said. Florin died, Dimitrie was taken care of and after that, he was sent home to  his relatives, and Bianca was taken to a hospital in Ploiești. Her spleen was removed, her liver was also affected, her ribs were broken, her lungs were crushed and Varvara was still in the womb. Neither of them seemed to survive, so the physicians asked Bianca’s family to give them  approval for abortion, hoping they will be able to save at least her.

When Bianca recovered from the coma, everybody told her that her husband is kept alive by machines. They were all afraid that she wouldn’t be able to take the news. After a dream she had, she knew Florin was already in Heaven, so when she finally got the news, she didn’t act very surprised. For almost two months she stayed in the hospital, for recovery procedures, learning how to walk again, and wanting, no matter what, to give birth to her fourth baby.

In spite all the danger and warnings that she was to have another baby with a handicap, because of the treatments and all the X-ray she went through after the accident, Bianca gave birth to a healthy Varvara. However, Varvara got infected with Staphylococcus Aureus in the hospital after she was born, so in less than two weeks doctors thought she would die, or at least that one of her legs will be cut off. Bianca literally pulled out the baby girl from the arms of one physician and ran elsewhere for another opinion.

That was the time when Bianca says she had a fight with God, warning Him that, if something bad happens to Varvara, she is not to be held accountable for her actions anymore. “Varvara went into surgery, the physician told me that her leg was still there, but that will be shorter since her cartilage won’t grow normally anymore. After a while, he saw her again and he asked me ‘What did you do to her, ma’am? There’s nothing here left for me to say. Her leg is completely recovered’. I then understood that when the physician says ‘no’, God says ‘yes’”, Bianca says.

With the help of her family, although her mother has been diagnosed with cancer, and later on her father was as well, Bianca managed to physically recover, after the accident. “When I got back home, Teodor couldn’t even look at me, my face was covered with scars. He kept on asking me what happened, but he wouldn’t let me finish. A miraculous thing, in the day of the accident, when he was at the kindergarten, he had to create a Christmas card. Instead, he created a collage of black velvet and a yellow piece of material, it was a lighting candle, next to a little branch of fir. The governess told me that he made it at 10 AM, the exact time of the accident. He couldn’t  have know, it was in real time, but somehow he felt that his father was dying, so he lighted a candle”, Bianca says.

Therefore it was no need for explanations, the kids knew their father was in Heaven, where there is no suffering, and they grew up not only by remembering him or seeing him in the pictures, but being conscious that he is always there and that he is answering their prayers. Just like they know that their father listened when living in Oradea for a few years, so Dimitrie could benefit from a physiotherapist help, it snowed with big snowflakes, despite the fact that in Oradea it’s usually not snowing. But it was Christmas, and kids prayed for some snow.

 

12698411_1734927946736384_2078504489750566951_oWith the help of some kind people, Dimitrie underwent multiple surgeries, and he is now able to move  his hands a little more and he is passionate about technology. He knows how to use a laptop, search for online tutorial classes, keen on learning more, although, theoretically, he doesn’t know how to read. Practically, he finds everything he needs and he laughs when his mother feels left behind with everything he has learned.

Teodor has inherited his father’s talent to draw, so he has read all the descriptive geometry manuals that are used at the University since he was in the VIIth grade. Instead of architecture, Teodor will choose car design. “Another very beautiful memory I have, once Teodor and I went into the attic to find his father’s drawing from when he was a student, we wanted to make a movie. And Teodor comes to me with this drawing and he tells me ‘Look!’. And I asked him ‘What is it?’. And he told me ‘Don’t you recognize it?’. I remembered seeing something similar at Teodor, but that drawing had his father’s signature on it and I didn’t understand what’s the connection. And Teodor said to me ‘It’s exactly the same car I have drawn’. It was exactly the same car, drawn from the same angle, Teodor had just discovered his father’s drawing and was shocked”, Bianca says.

10999332_804943099561032_3852002495451371029_oTeodor and his sisters, still students at the same school where Bianca teaches, wanted a second father, one they could be able to touch. Bianca understood their need and she could’ve been gone for it, if the second father wouldn’t also meant he would be her second husband as well. Though she had hard times when she felt shredded to pieces by loneliness, leaving her unconscious, Bianca knew that, beyond what her eyes could see, she was not alone.

Eventually, her heart got its peace, and she learned that, in hard times, when she didn’t know what’s the right thing to do, she only had to ask the questions, and the answers would come in other ways than words. In the same way that she received a car,among other gifts, that she needed to carry Dimitrie with. This is why she thinks that planning is worthless. All she wants is to keep her faith alive, as she managed to do in all those moments when everyone else had lost faith.

And people find it hard to believe that Bianca hasn’t lost her smile and her mind, that she is still running to a wild beach with the same fascination. That she is rather stunned by all the miracles she has lived than regretting being filled with regret. Her soul healed along with the scars on her face, so Bianca has only one word left to describe life: wonderful.

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This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is welcome.

 

An autistic child, a change for the whole world

Carmen Ghercă. Known today as a volunteering president and vice-president of ANCAAR Iași and FEDRA, two organizations for autistic children and adults. But 21 years ago, Carmen was the mother of a boy who would be diagnosed with autism, in a time when doctors wouldn’t give him any chance of evolution, even more so, advising Carmen of abandoning him. With her husband’s support, Carmen did everything she could to prove them wrong, and furthermore, she started helping other parents  who have children with  special needs. These children need love  more than anything else, not isolation.

Carmen was born 46 years ago and she believes she was gifted with a passion for kids. Her dream was to become a governess, but she ended up having a career in IT. She met her future husband and six months later they got married. The moment she found out she was pregnant, she was over the moon, and for three years, everything seemed to be as it should. Then there were signs that Robert wasn’t behaving normal: he would stay away from the other kids, he wouldn’t turn around when his name was called out, if he was focused on something that he really enjoyed doing, he wouldn’t look into other people’s eyes and, although he was big enough to start talking, he simply wouldn’t. Carmen and her husband decided to take him to a doctor.

They have walked a long and complicated road together, going from the general practitioner to different specialists in ORL, Psychology, both in Iași and Bucharest, but nobody seemed to narrow down the problem. Several months later a neurologist wrote down autism as a diagnostic. “As simple as that, a written diagnostic on a piece of paper. No other information, no explanation about what it means and what can we do. I got home, tried to find some details on the Internet, there were only a few, in English, with specific terms; tried to find some books, but they also had little information. For months, we were like heading towards disaster, a dead end without any chance of getting out”, Carmen says. Facing a severe diagnostic that nobody had any clue about, Carmen and her husband were living a nightmare.

Not only were their questions left unanswered, not knowing if Robert’s autism is a genetic disease, or if it’s their fault as parents or not, but they weren’t even encouraged to find a solution. “One of the physicians we went to told us to our faces that we have no chance with this baby and that it would be best we abandon him and think about having another one. You can imagine that when even a physician you go to for help or advice is telling you something like this, as a parent is something terrible. I was simply exhausted, I was suffering from depression, insomnia, my mind was filled with  these thoughts about my kid’s future, it was awful, we thought our life was over”, Camen says.

They have tried dozens of alternative therapies, quackery, bioresonance, they desperately searched for a kindergarten that will accept Robert along with the regular kids. They used to find him all alone, in a corner of the room, so he wouldn’t bother the rest. This was until they realised and accepted the fact that Robert has a different brain and that he needs to communicate in his own way, a way that can really help him.

13198427_1271381472874179_6057185732998961940_oWith the support of Star of Hope Foundation and Ancora Salvării Foundation, Robert followed a specialized therapy for the last few years and started studying at a school for children with special needs. He is to graduate from sophomore year in 2018. His development was contrary to the initial expectations. “Robert is non-verbal, but we learned to communicate through sign language; he also learned to write and read and he can explain to us what his wishes are, we even have an app on the tablet that helps him put pictographs together, and all this are decreasing his frustrations, because an autistic child gets frustrated when he fails to make himself understood by the others”, Carmen says.

11115606_1007197312625931_3931928181564455202_nHowever, Robert is not the only one making progress. Attending classes for parents held by the Star of Hope Foundation’s specialists, Carmen found out that she is not the only mother of an autistic child in Romania, as she thought she was, so she started connecting with other parents and specialists in and outside the country, following the advice to set up an organisation that can bring them closer. This is how ANCAAR Iași (National Association for Children and Adult with Autism from Romania) was founded in 2003, Carmen being its president since then. ANCCAR is now helping 30 kids and 60 parents, in a special support center, through different projects, some with European finances, some thanks to donations.

11081195_1010688562276806_2765242334713107497_nAlso, in 2010 FEDRA (Federation for Autism Spectrum Disorder People’s Rights and Resources) was founded, Carmen now being vice-president. Not only that she got to visit different organizations around the world to gain more experience, but she also got to militate for the rights of the people with autism at Bruxelles, through a petition. Aware of the fact that her mission, although not an easy one, is still ongoing and it will be until the day she dies, she believes that, going through this experience, she has managed to change herself in a positive way.

Last, but not least, Carmen enjoyed her husband’s support, and despite other families that usually break up, mothers raising kids by themselves, Carmen’s family become stronger than ever. Encouraged by other parents who have decided to have a second child, even though the first one was diagnosed with autism, Carmen and her husband faced their fears and this is how Paul was born, 13 years ago. A healthy child who gave them the chance to experience another kind of parenthood, making their family love turn bigger and having a wonderful relationship with his older brother.

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Since parents’ bigger fear is usually their autistic kids being left helpless, after they grow old, Carmen hopes that a center for people with autism will be founded in Romania to also to have, as she has seen in other countries. A place where adults with autism, without being isolated or discriminated, are encouraged to become independent and their activities are welcome. She believes that there is hope, as she had faith in Robert’s development, in spite all the barriers they had to face. Most of all, she believes that God has a plan for the kids and adults with autism, so their life can be beautiful, even though they are different.

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This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is welcome.

The courage of saying No to an abortion and the miracles that followed afterwards

Cerasela Soficu. Many of us don’t know her name, neither do the strangers who stop her on the street to ask her how old she was when her baby was born. She didn’t plan to have a baby and she wasn’t even asked if she wanted one. Although she wasn’t expecting him, Cerasela chose to keep him and, more than that, to protect him and raise him as a single mom. If I were to resume her story in only one word, there wouldn’t be a better one than courage. The courage to believe there is always a way, and even miracles, in a time when it seemed like she was going against the stream.

When she was a little girl, Cerasela remembers she was trying to blend into the wall, like she was trying to disappear or at least to pass unnoticed. She was so shy, that she kept herself silent for hours until her sister came home from school and only then she would tell her everything about her thoughts and emotions from that day. She had a hard time connecting with the others and  her parents weren’t to close to her either. “They were present, but cold, I don’t know why, maybe nobody taught them to act differently or this is the way they have been raised as well. They told me to study, to be the top of the class, and I was. For many years I was until I got tired. I was so tired that I wouldn’t even go to college, I made an effort to finish it, but that was all”, Cerasela says.
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She finished her studies, but the need of affection chased her, so she continued looking for it in the people around her. The moment she met her ex-boyfriend, she thought her pain will finally vanish. “At first I was bragging about him, told my mom he was such a nice guy, always putting up with me… I’ve then realized he was capable of some things that wouldn’t even cross my mind. I got to know him better and we were constantly fighting, I told him many times that I want to break up and that we will not get married, we even lost respect for each other. But he insisted, kept telling me that I will calm down, he wasn’t even listening to me”, Cerasela says.

Although they didn’t get along with each other any more, Cerasela wasn’t ready to let go. “We weren’t right for each other, we had totally different ways of seeing things, I knew that, he was also a video games addict, tried to tell him that being 32 years old he should be more responsible, but he had no desire to change. And time passed by like this, because I was afraid of being alone. Although it was a toxic relationship, at least it was one”, Cerasela says. After a few months of being in this relationship, she found out that she was pregnant. While she is now at peace with what happened, back then things seemed to be completely out of control.

After fighting in the middle of a park, when Cerasela told her ex-boyfriend that she will keep the baby, but she will not marry him, her ex-boyfriend ran to her parents to tell them she was with child. The next months weren’t exactly what a woman pregnant with her first baby would wish for. Cerasela’s sister, married and pregnant as well, cried the entire day when she found out what happened. Cerasela’s parents, although they’ve helped her a lot after that with raising Emilian, at first they were mad at her, constantly telling her to get married and often blaming her.

Her ex-boyfriend, Cerasela says, was so perplexed that she didn’t accept getting married, that he rejected the child, telling everyone that it wasn’t his. “He was so determined on getting married, that he even told me that I can get an abortion, if I don’t want to keep the baby, only to marry him. He then told me that if I don’t marry him, he will not take any responsibility for the child and he kept his word. I didn’t want to get married just to  end up like my parents, maybe I shouldn’t say this, but I knew what a child feels when his parents are fighting, I was that child and I didn’t want Emilian to feel the same way as I did”, Cerasela says.

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Her baby boy is two years old now and he started speaking, dad being one of his words. “He only saw him once. After I calmed down, when Emilian was seven months old, I took him to his father’s workplace, so he can meet him. I feel that a child, no matter how old is the child, misses one of his parents. His dad held him for a while, said ironically that he’s beautiful and that was all. I tried to explain to him that our relationship is different from their relationship, as father and son, but he didn’t seem to understand. And I couldn’t go further because he had already found someone to get marry to and now he has another baby to care for”, Cerasela says.

In spite her sad story, Cerasela believes that ever since Emilian was born, miracles started happening. She would only receive a 50 euros allowance each month, since she didn’t work long enough before she got pregnant and she wasn’t eligible for more. Even though she had no clue about the way she will raise him, she knew one thing for sure: God was going to help her. Getting in touch with Provita Department (Metropolis of Moldavia and Bukovina), she was given everything she needed before and after Emilian was born. “Ultrasounds, blood tests, clothes,a baby bed, they paid for all of it and it meant so much to me. When I got pregnant, I had no support, I felt terrible, got a job in the third month of pregnancy, tried to hide the baby, cried every night. Provita also helped me to go to therapy, there is a shrink that I can go to anytime. Some people may say I’m a dreamer, but I’ve received everything I prayed for, without even getting to tell someone I needed those things, and that really was a miracle”, Cerasela says.

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Giving birth to Emilian also helped her to become independent, something she always wished for, but never got the courage to do. She moved away from her parents, got a job, while Emilian was still going to daycare, but the biggest change was about her health. “It may seem a little weird what I’m going to say, but I believe this child came to being so he can change me. My life wasn’t too clean and tidy and, although I had my share of mistakes, I guess I’ve managed to take the right decisions afterwards…”, Cerasela says.

Although she is 27 years old, Cerasela is short and she weighs 92 pounds, so she looks like a child carrying around another child. She can see a certain look on people’s faces, but to her, these are only chances of telling her story. The story that helped her find out that a baby is a miracle and, no matter what, keeping him can only lead to other miracles. This is the message that Cerasela has for all the other mothers who sometimes might feel helpless: there is help. And there is always a way to choose life.

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This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the
edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is
welcome.

 

A journey that still goes on

Alexandru Luchici. Founder of the “euRespect” Foundation, responsible projects creator, a lobbyist for people with disabilities to have a beautiful life. Because Alex does love life. He loved it in 2006 when diving into the shallow waters of the Danube’s Delta left him paralyzed from the shoulders down and before that. But, most importantly, he kept on loving it afterwards.

Alex’s dream was to become a tour guide. To him, the nature which he had admired in all its forms meat home. As a child, he was passionate about animals, biology and especially about the beauty of the birds, he grew up with the song of the birds, as he used to travel to the Danube’s Delta and to climb up the mountains. The summer vacations spent with his grandmother were the best, so one day he would put that house on the must-see travel list for the tourists to come. He was aiming to show those passing by something wonderful they could keep in their hearts.

Active and optimistic as he was, Alex returned home from Iasi, after graduating the first year of college, to attend an independent film festival that took place at Sfântu Gheorghe, in the Danube’s Delta. He met there with some tourists and he was going to show them a shipwreck, when Alex decided to first take a dive into the water of the Delta, to cool-off. His life journey would completely reroute on that day of 18th of August.

Aware that he had just broken his spine and not being able to move anymore, Alex tried to keep his head up and not let his mind dwell. He was telling the others how to get help, encouraging them. They were expecting some pretty long hours back to the shore, with a water ambulance, then a land ambulance transport and a helicopter transfer to Bucharest.

Starting the moment of the accident, Alex realized that his optimistic nature was a gift that, more than ever, had to be put to use. He spent three months in the intensive care unit in Bucharest, intubated, and another year in all kinds of hospitals, because of the complications that occurred afterwards.

Although sometimes he felt like he was overwhelmed by pain, his ultimate suffering was seeing his family and friends hurt. “I couldn’t stand seeing them like that, they were petrified. I would look at them and, you know, I don’t have a hard time smiling, so I would smile and tell them to just talk, to defuse the situation a bit”, Alex says.

While Alex helped them smile, his family and friends helped him go through the recovery phase. Crowdfunding campaigns were made, to cover the surgery and the recovery procedures costs, as well traveling to Germany, Budapest, and China. Almost 120.000 Euros were transferred into Alex’s bank account, some of it donated by complete strangers, and his heartfelt emotions are still vivid to this day when he recalls his experience.

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The day he left the hospital wasn’t by far a sad one, as we might think. In spite the fact he was in a wheelchair now, Alex was focused on something else.

“I yearned to get out, to breathe fresh air, I couldn’t care less about the wheelchair. I had lost so much weight, but it didn’t bother me. It was my inner state that was important”, Alex says.

He tried even an experimental stem cells treatment, hoping that his bone marrow lesion diagnostic could be changed. He felt better, being able to breathe without a nebulizer, but he couldn’t still regain his mobility. And I’m saying still because Alex never ceased hoping. He is confident that someday physics will advance enough to find the cure he needs. Until then, he calmly continues to smile, turning every day of his life into a precious one.

The road he had walked along with his girlfriend before and after the accident, for many years, has split and became one of friendship and giving. They founded “euRespect” so they can support other people with disabilities.

When I had the accident there weren’t all these information channels. I have had, for a very long time, the impression I was an isolated case. But, through the recovery phase, I have met many people with the same problem as mine, after diving or another type of accident. So I started to connect with them, to see what we can do to overcome this. I started a blog and wrote about myself and after that, I have received a lot of messages from a lot of people, family or friends of those who have suffered an accident. I think this it’s very important: an advice given at the right time regarding the medical evolution or a good word can change one’s life when is facing hard times”, Alex says.

And so he decided to do more than writing on his blog. Although he had lived difficult moments, not knowing what his life will look like after the accident, Alex knows that he is part of the lucky ones that didn’t isolate, that weren’t put down by depression. Keeping his memories before the accident intense, willing to create new ones and connect with people, he was aware that it’s not his state the one stopping him from having an active life, but the social barriers.

The fact that some people have the tendency to keep the distance, not knowing how to react, the absence of a wheelchair ramp in a public transportation vehicle or that he would bump against a sidewalk, trying to go get some fresh air, made Alex to expose  all these problems and even take action to change it, through his foundation. The donations, the 2% income tax or the tax on profit are the ones that make his dreams come true. The Foundation has different awareness projects that bring people together, the ones with disabilities along with the ones without them, so it can change the general perception about disabilities and develop an inclusive society.

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We want to emphasize the value of the people with disAbilities in order to create opportunities for them, to become active citizens, being hired or having a dynamic life in any other way. Through our projects, we managed to help financially those who needed recovery procedures or to offer school materials to students with special needs at a high school in Iași. These are small projects, but powerful. Now we are keen on a new one, we wish to create tourist routes for people with disabilities in Iași. Actually, I have found my way back to my passion for Geography, I could say that I have discovered a new route towards it”, Alex says.

Invited to Brussels and Iași to speak about the access the people with disabilities have to assistive technology and a tourism strategy, Alex has managed to bring his ideas to light and he hopes that the municipality will cooperate so they can put them into effect. With an income around 200 Euros, insufficient to cover all expenses, Alex has learned, by himself, to work as a graphic designer as he still needs regular medical assistance and recovery procedure. A significant input was his brother’s breakthrough, QuadJoy, a machine that helps Alex work on a laptop, by moving his lips.

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Alex also managed to get a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree, after the syllabus was adapted for him, so he can send projects and be evaluated. At the same time, he has adjusted his car, so he can get in easier, with an elevator, and along with his care giver, he goes on many trips,  including to the Danube’s Delta, in Tulcea. Because, as I said, Alex never stopped to really love life.

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This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is welcome.