Lifestyle & Human Interest

ER Nurse Adopts Severely Abused Children After Meeting Them in Hospital During Her Shift


A Pennsylvania couple put love into action when they adopted three severely abused children who had been removed from their home and hospitalized just days before Christmas in 2016.

April Doster was working her shift as an emergency room nurse at the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center when she first spotted three traumatized children.

As an ER nurse, Doster had seen her fair share of trauma, but the sight of the abused children, aged 4, 5 and 6, was unlike anything she had ever witnessed.

“It was nothing that I had ever seen before in my entire nursing career,” Doster told WHP. “It was absolutely horrific.”

Doster’s husband, Rubin, also glimpsed the children, who were escorted into the hospital by police as Rubin was leaving after having lunch with his wife.

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“Neither of us had ever seen anything like what they looked like. You could see every bone in their bodies,” April Doster said.

Doster spent her shift caring for the boy, J.T., who weighed just over 27 pounds at age 6, PennState Health News reported.

All J.T. wanted was to be able to eat food, but he vomited every time he tried. The boy suffered from refeeding syndrome, which happened because his body had been starved for so long that it was unable to digest food once it was reintroduced.

When Doster returned to work a couple of days later, she was surprised and saddened to see that all three kids were still there. No family had come forward to claim them, and two foster families had declined placement.

At that moment, Doster knew that the children were meant to come home with her to spend Christmas alongside her husband and their six children.

Rubin’s heart was immediately open to having extra kids come to stay at his home.

“When I texted my husband to ask if I could bring some friends home for Christmas, he knew exactly who I was talking about,” Doster said. “His reply was, ‘Sure, but make sure you get Christmas presents for them.’”

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So J.T. and his siblings Savannah, 5, and Hailey, 4, moved in with the Doster family to spend Christmas together. Living in a home with warm beds, access to food, adequate sleep and playfulness was a whole new world to the children who had existed locked away in a bedroom with only the paint on the walls as food.

“At first, they just kept thanking us for letting them sleep,” April Doster said. “They had to stand at attention against the wall with their arms outstretched — and if they were found sleeping, they were beaten.”

Before long, the three children meshed so well with the Doster family that it only seemed natural that a formal adoption was on the horizon.

April and Rubin already had six children. They adopted four of Rubin’s nieces and nephews years ago, and had two biological children, Mya, 11, and Derek, 5.

The children all became family to one another, and on Oct. 3, 2018, J.T., Savannah and Hailey were formally adopted into the Doster family.

“They really just became part of the family,” Rubin said. “I do remember one day when I was leaving for work and Mya and Derek said ‘Bye, Dad’ — and then Hailey said, ‘Bye, Dad.’ I went out to the garage and thought, ‘Oh boy, that’s it. They’re ours.’”

Fast forward to 2019 and J.T., now 9, Savannah, 8, and Hailey, 7, are flourishing in the Doster household.

There were some difficult adjustments at first, and the older two continue to attend therapy to help them process their years of abuse and neglect, but Doster is thrilled to report that all of her kids are thriving in school, socially, and within the family.

“Despite all the evil they were put through, they are amazing kids,” Doster said. “If you give somebody structure, love and a sense of belonging, look what it does. All you have to do is open your heart and let people in. That’s all we did.”

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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