March 7, 1973. ~ Michael visits Leslie Robinette, a 6 year old girl in isolation at the Children’s Hospital in Seattle. Leslie underwent a bone marrow transplant, leaving her in a post-surgical depression. When she met Michael, she was a sick child with a little hair and a bloated stomach, suffering from aplastic anemia caused by a genetic disease called Fanconi Anemia.
In 1973, Leslie and her family went to Seattle, where she was admitted to the Children’s Hospital (then it was called Medical Center and Children’s Orthopedic Hospital). The bone marrow transplant she received at that time was experimental surgery. She was one of the youngest patients going through the procedure. She had to have chemotherapy, radiation and a constant change of medications. But worst of all was that she had to be isolated for three months. Everyone spoke with her through walkie-talkies and only her mother was allowed to be in the room. The doctors told the family they had done everything but her condition was not improving. “After going through all this, you’re tired and just want to go home, it is a way to stop the fight” Leslie said afterwards.
During the isolation, she was listening her favorite band, The Jackson 5, from a sterilized record player that doctors allowed her to have in the room…. and on March 7, she had a surprise visit.
“I was sitting in my room looking out the window, listening -oddly- the song “Looking through the window” of the Jackson 5, when I heard nurses going crazy and making a fuss,” said Leslie. She looked through the glass that was her only connection with the busy hospital and saw the Jackson 5 there.
“They asked me which one I wanted to see and I said – Michael-he was the cutest.”
Leslie describes Michael as an obviously shy but incredibly friendly and honest guy. He gave her an autographed picture, took her hand and asked her how she was. “It’s been so long since I touched someone without gloves. And I saw hair instead of just a green hat with eyes peeping through”. Michael was only 15 then, and Leslie now believes that he was more nervous than her.
After the visit, Leslie’s condition began to improve.
“I would not say that he saved her life, that would be too much – but he definitely gave her a desire to live because she had lost it”, says Trine Robinette, Leslie’s sister.
Three months after her encounter with Michael, Leslie left the hospital and returned with her family to their farm in Greenville. Although the doctors said that she could not live more than 10 years, Leslie is still alive, now 47 year old woman leading an active life although she is still struggling with her illness.
August 9, 1984. ~ Eleven years after, when Leslie was 17, she met Michael again.
This time it was on the Victory Tour in Knoxville for two nights of concerts, which spread to a third night due to its popularity. Nearly 50,000 fans gathered at Neyland Stadium every night to see the show.
Leslie received free tickets and on the third night, she got backstage. She gave Michael a handmade birthday card. “I asked him if he remembered me and he said yes. We were talking about the choir where I sang and how soon will I get rid of the lumbar corset (for the disease),” said Leslie.
Then Michael told his security team that she was his guest, so she attended the third concert in a VIP box sitting right next to his mother, Katherine.