A serious illness is one of the most stressful and heart wrenching things that can happen to a family – especially when it’s a child who is sick. A natural reaction is to call on family and friends to help, and welcoming an au pair – essentially gaining another family member – can provide a huge measure of support and love during tough times. One of our Au Pair of the Year finalists did just that for her host parents while their youngest daughter battled a life-threatening diagnosis.
Finalist: Anebreth Mena, 26, from Mexico
Host parents: Michelle and Moses Liu
Host children: Ezra (10), Esther (4), Ezekiel (3)
Hometown: Fairfax, VA
The Liu family learned in October 2012 that their middle child, 4-year-old Esther, had pulmonary hypertension, a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs and the right side of the heart. Pulmonary hypertension can be very severe and ultimately lead to less tolerance for exercise and, worse, heart failure. Because of the diagnosis, they moved from Europe back to the U.S. while their daughter waited for a lung transplant. In the meantime, they began looking for an au pair.
After a short time with an au pair who couldn’t keep up with their very busy household, Michelle interviewed Anebreth (Annie) and felt she was a better fit for their family. Says Michelle, “We needed someone who was, above all else, mature. Annie worked in logistics in Mexico before she realized she wanted something different – a career involving kids. I thought that showed she was coming to the U.S. as an au pair for the right reasons.”
Annie also shared the Lius’ strong faith in God. “She asked me during the interview, ‘Would you be comfortable with me talking to your children about God? Would it be okay if I read to them from the Bible?'”, shares Michelle. “If she hadn’t been that religious it wouldn’t have been a deal-breaker but the fact that she asked us these things definitely set her apart from other au pairs.”
Ultimately, the Liu family chose Annie and are so happy they did. “Annie is independent, courageous, mature. She wants to meet every challenge. She sees it as a privilege and an honor to do the things that my husband and I would do for our kids.” Right now that includes keeping Esther away from germs that may compromise her delicate state (she is on immunosuppressive drugs after receiving a double lung transplant in July – yay Esther!) and bonding with Ezra throughout all the recent changes.
Annie’s contribution to her family prompted Michelle to nominate her for Au Pair of the Year, and the following is part of her nomination letter:
When you arrived, we were preparing for a move into our new house. School was ending and we quickly had you driving our kids to their various activities and appointments. Our 4-year-old daughter, Esther, had a terminal illness called pulmonary hypertension and had just been listed for a double lung transplant. Grandma came down from New York to help you get settled, since neither of us had time away from work. We were so impressed with how easily you handled our large SUV and even how you managed to carry our two youngest children simultaneously, as if you were Superwoman! Best is that you and Grandma got along so well, and soon became ‘BFFs’ due to your mutual love of shopping! (LOL) As you know, Grandma is very particular when it comes to the care of her grandchildren!
The move out of our old house went like a whirlwind, and we all rolled up our sleeves with the help of about 20 people from our church. We knew God was at work to get us moved quickly and safely to a house that better met our family’s needs. The following night, on July 20th, while you were asleep, we received a call to take Esther to Philadelphia ‘immediately’ for her double lung transplant. At the time we were trusting in God again for His perfect timing, and we could not imagine what it must have been like for you to wake up and find three of us gone. The following month you took charge and literally became ‘the woman of the house’ along with Grandma, cooking, receiving guests, caring for the boys as your own. You have continued in this way since then, and all we can say is that ‘All things work together for good to those who love God and to those who are called according to His purpose—Romans 8:28.’ In the midst of personal suffering and uncertainty about the future, we know that He cares for us with great detail and He provided you for our family at the perfect time and in His perfect way.
Another special moment that must be mentioned was when Grandma received a call from summer camp that Ezra was “profusely bleeding” from the side of his head after a fall. Grandma was very upset and felt helpless. I saw her anxiety level rise while we were on FaceTime and needed someone to take charge of the situation for me because I was still in Philadelphia with Esther, the day before her discharge. You took control of the situation, because not only was Grandma upset, but Ezra of course was acting like a lunatic due to his fear of having to go to the hospital. Only you and Grandma know what it took to console him and get yourselves together to get him out of the house for the repair of his ear, which had been torn in half. This situation showed us your ability to remain calm and collected in an emergency, which is exactly what we were looking for from the very beginning.
We are blessed to have received you into our home and our hearts. We see God caring for our kids through your delicate, sweet, loving hands every day. You never complain (‘no problema’ is your favorite phrase), and you do your job with elegance and expertise. We love you, our children love you, and we secretly hope that you will not leave us this summer, but only God knows. Thank you for caring for us and allowing us to be a part of your life. We appreciate the sacrifice you have made to be so far away from your family, to open yourself to a new culture, and to face the demands of our busy lives. God bless you and grant you much peace as you embark on your wonderful future, hopefully with several kids of your own to be blessed by your loving hands.
While Michelle admits she would love for Annie to stay another year with them, “Ultimately I want what’s best for her.” Either way, the Liu family has a friend for life.