Mothering Sunday – How a mother’s love saved her child from life in an institution
Tudor Comescu is a cheerful little boy who lives with his parents, Aliona and Daniel, in a small basement flat in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova.
Tudor was born with complex disabilities, including cerebral palsy. Although he’s nearly three years old now, he weighs just 6kg and looks much younger than his years. Tudor can’t stand or sit by himself but he loves to be held.
And he has an amazing smile which is how his parents know that he enjoys the moving coloured lights they’ve projected onto his bedroom ceiling, the sound of his grandfather playing the violin and, for reasons all his own, doors being opened and closed!
Tudor’s mother, Aliona is a nurse by training and a one-woman-masterclass in what family love for children really means. As soon as Tudor was born, the doctors and the child protection officials told Aliona not to try to care for him herself but to put him in an institution.
But Aliona would not give up on her son. “I tried to consult as many people, as many professionals as possible” Aliona told us. “But it was really painful when all they could see was Tudor’s condition. They couldn’t see him. They told me not to waste my time”.
When our team in Moldova first met Aliona, she was desperate and didn’t know where to turn. We were able to help provide the medicines and special food that Tudor needed and helped the family to apply for the social benefits to which they are entitled.
We also put Aliona and Daniel in touch with other NGOs who can provide extra support. Perhaps most importantly of all though, our social worker, Natalia, gave Aliona the encouragement she needed to keep going and believe that she could care for Tudor herself.
“It was so hard at the beginning”, Aliona says. “Now I have people to talk to and I can share my feelings. I am really grateful for the help that Hope and Homes for Children has given me. This is the organisation that knows how to get me the help that I need to care for my child.
“The specialists I spoke don’t know how to look after these children. They just wash their hands of them and send them to an institution. If Tudor had had to go into an orphanage, it would have been terrible for him. There children are neglected and of course their condition gets worse so the doctors take this as proof that there is no hope for them”.
But Aliona has proved the doctors wrong. Thanks to her love and care, Tudor has lived longer and developed further than any of them thought possible. When we visited him recently, he was smiling, and responsive – clearly happy to be the centre of attention. He loved the soap bubbles we blew for him and beamed whenever Aliona picked him up.
“I’ve learned my own way to handle him – I watch the therapists and I adapt what they do because I know what helps him and what he enjoys. I have had no choice but to become the expert in my son’s care”, she says. “I think all mothers should have the support they need to care for their children, whatever their needs.”
Aliona, Daniel and Tudor eat dinner together every evening so that Tudor knows that he’s part of a family. He’s particularly close to his paternal grandfather because, Aliona explains, “Tudor likes to fall asleep on his grandpa’s big tummy!”
If Aliona had not had the support she needed to be able to stand up to the authorities, Tudor would not have a family to love and protect him. Instead, he would have spent the last three years in an institution, alone in a cot, with no love, no physical contact, no one to believe in his potential to develop or to enjoy his life. The chances are he would not have survived this long.
Caring for Tudor is very hard. He sleeps very little and needs to be fed through a tube into his stomach at regular intervals. His parents worry constantly about his failure to gain weight and Aliona is anxious about taking him outside because he is vulnerable to infection. As a consequence, she rarely leaves the flat.
This summer, Tudor had a high fever and had to be taken to hospital but he fought back and recovered. “I’m sure that’s because he knows that he is loved,” Aliona says. Life is still very difficult and the future is uncertain but Aliona devotion to her son is unwavering. “I love him so much”, she says. “His smiles are my reward”.
The work of Hope and Homes for Children in Moldova is focused on closing orphanages by finding safe, family-based care for children. At the same time, we work to support vulnerable families in order to prevent further babies and young children being placed in institutions that threaten both their development and their life- chances.