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Khadijah Ali Acts As A Surrogate Grandmother To Babies With Special Needs

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Hugs and kisses mean a lot to babies with special needs. Ten-month-old Rayshon Modeste was born with severe breathing problems, which forced him to spend his first six months at Kings County Hospital.

“After I gave birth and they told me he had these problems, I was scared,” says Alcina Samul, Rayshon’s mother.

He's since gone home to his mom. She says she owes Rayshon's recovery to the hospital staff, especially his volunteer grandmother, Khadijah Ali.

While doctors and nurses healed Rayshon physically, Khadijah took care of his emotional needs. She sang to him, hugged him, and made him feel at home while he was in the hospital.

“I'm childless. I've never had a child, so being with these babies, sitting with them and nurturing them and bonding with them, it means so much to me," says Khadijah.

Doctors say the human touch helps to heal, but it's something health care workers don't always have time for.

"When you've got therapies and procedures and things that have to be done to provide medical care, this is where the foster grandparents come in," says Susan Holzman of Kings County Hospital.

“A little bit of cuddling, some sort of vocal and visual interaction with the baby - we believe the babies do react to it," says Dr. Sheila Laungani, also of Kings County Hospital.

Khadijah is part of the National Volunteer Grandparents Program, which pairs seniors with children in schools, day care centers and hospitals. She has a lot of love to give. In the last five years, Khadijah has played grandma to more than 60 babies at Kings County's Neo-Natal Unit.

Many of them are born premature and arrive in critical condition. After graduating from the Intensive Care Unit, babies are taken to the Special Care Unit, where they're monitored and treated until they're ready to go home.

So, for giving babies with special needs affection while they're away from home, and helping health care givers nurse them back to health, Khadijah Ali is our New Yorker of the Week.

For more information on Kings County's Volunteer Grandparents Program, call 1-718-245-3121, or visit

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