The love of a child is infinite. Whether you are holding their hand to cross the street, kissing their boo-boos away or providing endless support and love, the role of a mother is paramount.
American author Jodi Picoult once said, “Being a parent wasn’t just about bearing a child. It was about bearing witness to its life.” For one local mother, love for her patient would stretch far beyond the walls of a hospital room.
Specializing in pediatric liver and intestinal transplants, Melanie Merrill-Kennedy fortuitously met Pocholo Aglubat on the day he was admitted to the hospital for a liver transplant. Born with Biliary Atresia, Pocholo (known as “Pochie”) required a liver transplant when he was merely 8 months old. Though gifted with a new liver, complications from the surgery hospitalized the infant for nearly a month.
“I spent a lot of time with Pochie during his admissions,” Merrill-Kennedy said. “His smile was infectious and it was the highlight of my day being able to spend time with him. He had a way of locking a place in your heart.”
Though a move to the Napa Valley would cause her to leave her position, the connection established by the physician assistant and her young patient was eternal. Already a devoted mother to son Nickolas, Melanie’s maternal instincts prompted her to inquire about Pochie after her departure from the hospital.
“Because Pochie was in foster care, I casually expressed to our social worker that if he ever needed a home to let me know .... I didn’t think it would actually happen and the moment passed,” she said.
Then, on one faithful day in November of 2012, Merrill-Kennedy was contacted by her social worker and informed that Pochie was in need of a foster home.
“When I received the email at the end of October, my heart just about leapt out of my chest. I understood that this was a foster placement but I couldn’t resist the feelings of wanting to be his forever home if that’s what the courts decided,” she said.
Merrill-Kennedy, a newlywed, said the decision to include Pochie into her family was fully supported by her husband, Aaron.
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“My husband is adopted and had expressed a desire to expand our family with adoption. When I called him to tell him about the email and how I felt we were destined to care for this child, however short- or long-term that may be, he was very open to the idea,” Merrill-Kennedy said.
“It seemed like perfect timing. Here I was leaving my position to spend more time with our family, and who better to take care of a liver transplant patient. He was concerned about his long-term health and what that could mean for us, but agreed that this child was placed in front of us for a reason.”
Now, a family of four, the Kennedy’s have given Pochie a brother, a best friend and a place to call home.
“If I didn’t have Pochie for a brother I wouldn’t have him to play with. I love him 100 percent,” said Nickolas Kennedy.
Together, the family participates in Relay For Life, spreads awareness of organ donation and Merrill-Kennedy has since become an advocate for foster care reform as well as volunteered as a court-appointed special advocate (CASA).
Most importantly, the Kennedys focus their time on what matters most — each other.
On Dec. 4, 2015, the boy who first captured the heart of his care provider officially became a Kennedy. “I was happy and then I started freaking out because I was so happy,” said Pochie Kennedy.
The desire to be a forever home to Pochie became a reality, and the two who seemed to be destined for one another will forever be mother and son.