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SALT LAKE CITY — Advocates say the law allowing newborn babies to be anonymously left at a hospital has saved lives, no question.
For one Orem family, the adoption of a Safe Haven baby has led to even more lives being changed.
Life for 13-year-old Zach Thill is both normal and busy. He loves his dogs Buddy and Cosmo. He has school and sports, and likes Spanish and soccer. He also likes to draw.
Oh, and he’s one of 19 children.
“To say life is busy is a bit of an understatement,” said his father, John Thill.
Because of Zach’s story, the other children came along, too.
Let’s back up. John Thill said when he and his wife Cayce were living in Michigan, they adopted a little boy named Nathan and thought that was it for their family. But soon after they got a call about Zach.
“He was born and his mom chose to keep him safe, and left him in the care of the hospital," Thill explained.
Zach was born just after the Safe Haven Law was enacted in Michigan.
“Zach’s mom went to the hospital. She had just used cocaine, so he tested positive. She went into premature labor, had the baby, then walked out," Cayce said.
John points to his forearm.
“Zach was 3 pounds, 4 ounces when he was born. His head would sit here, and the rest of him here," he explained.
“He was so tiny, and really medically fragile. If she had had him anywhere else because she was scared, he probably wouldn’t have survived," Cayce said.
Zach went through a lot to survive, but now he’s thriving. And because of this incredible experience, his parents knew they had to keep helping other babies. When they moved to Utah, they became certified foster parents, with an ever-growing family.
Zach reaches out to help a little sister as he talks about things he likes about his family.
“Nathan and I are buds. My mom is fun. We have family movie night with pizza every Friday," he said.
The Thills want any mom who is scared or in trouble to know they can anonymously give their newborn baby a better life.
“It can’t be easy for the birth parents. It takes courage," John said.
“To offer something like that is critical. I hope more people know I can do this, I won’t get in trouble," Cayce said.