14 years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful little baby girl. We named her Yitty. Yitty lacked oxygen at birth and. a few days later her head started swelling due to the trauma of her birth. Every 2 days a needle was inserted into her head to drain the fluid. To further complicate matters during her prolonged hospital stay, Yitty contracted meningitis. Yitty lost her sight and most of her hearing.
It was an extremely exhausting time for me, juggling the hospital, home act tearing myself between my darling baby in SCBU, where she was constantly having seizures and fighting for her life and being with the rest of my children who needed me so badly at home.

When Yitty was 6 months old she came home. I cared for her for 2 difficult years between many hospital admissions. But then reached a point where I was unable to give her the intense medical and physical care she needed. I had to make the most heart wrenching decision in my life and agree to allow someone else to care for her.
Together with the local authority we tried to find a home for Yitty, but to no avail. No family was able to give her the intense care she needed. We had no choice but to send her to Israel where we found a Home, which was the perfect setting for her.
Ever since I had to give my darling Yitty her first kiss goodbye, I have been dreaming and speculating how to bring her back home. Armed with the strongest motivation - a mothers enduring love, I set out to work with one burning ambition. My mission was to set up a Home in London where my Yitty could live, thrive, be loved and live close to her family who all missed her so much.
As the years passed, I visited her often. Sometimes I took her siblings and it was always difficult to tear ourselves away from her. I knew that Yitty recognized her family and I sensed her happiness whenever we came. There were many ups and downs especially when she became sick and it was extremely challenging to know that i wasn't able to be there for her when she needed me most. Whenever I would say good-bye to her she would hold on to me tightly, not letting me go. My heart would break, realising how much she needed me. Yitty was 9 years old when I received a panicked call from my husband, I was out shopping that day. He told me that Yitty had collapsed and needed immediate surgery. I was extremely distressed. Here I was, in London, while she was all alone in Israel in critical condition. I took the next plane straight to the hospital I was shattered and exhausted as I waited for my beloved daughter to be wheeled out of surgery. As Yitty lay unconscious, I kissed her head and stroked her cheek. The strongest mother and daughter bond flowed through our veins. It was just then that Yitty’s eyes flickered open. Such is the power of a mothers love. Yitty spent the next few months in hospital and it was a period that was extremely traumatic for me and my entire family. Yitty was able to express her feelings by smiling and giggling and only when she was in real agonising pain would she cry. During this period she cried a lot. My darling little girl was in such excruciating pain that all I could do was mingle my tears with hers, wash her face and lips and try and sing her soothing melodies to calm her down. It was a great comfort that I was able to be next to her, holding and cuddling her in my embrace. However, across the ocean, my other children were desperately missing me, begging me to come home. How could I leave Yitty now when she was in such pain? How could I ignore the pleas of my other 4 children who needed their mummy? How does one mother care for her children spread across to continents? My heart was tearing in two. I could not bring my darling girl home but I could not leave her as she was. She needed me and I wanted her near me. This knowledge felt like shards of glass piercing my heart. Words alone cannot describe how difficult our years of separation were.
I knew then that nothing in the world was going to stop me from building a Home in England for Yitty and all other families who were suffering as we were. Fuelled by my determination and pain, I formed a committee starting with two other mothers of disabled children to set up Bayis Sheli, a residential and respite home for children with special needs. It has taken herculean effort to turn Bayis Sheli from a dream to a reality.
Bayis Sheli is my "fairy castle". Bayis Sheli is a revolutionary concept of quality and luxurious care for disabled children throughout the UK. This magical place will allow children and parents to look to the future with optimism and be the happiest place on earth for our special children.
Sadly, Yitty passed away recently following her 14th birthday, but this has only made my determination stronger. I am keeping Yitty’s memory alive by dedicating my life to the fairy castle that was meant to be hers. - Leah Stern


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