January 13 - 2010
Michael Jackson visits 5-year old Leslie Robinette at a hospital,
after she had undergone a bone-marrow transplant, leaving her
with post-surgery depression; the patient has later on credited
the famous visitor in person and publicly with enhancing her
the will to live.
Leslie Robinette was 6 years old when she first met Michael
Jackson. An ailing little girl with barely any hair and a swollen
stomach, Robinette suffered then, as now, from aplastic anemia
caused by the genetic disease fanconi anemia, which she describes
as being like a little Pac-Man going after all your bone
marrow. Jackson was only 15. Robinette now believes he
must have been more nervous than she was.
In 1973, she and her family went to Seattle, where she stayed
in Seattle Childrens Hospital then The Childrens
Orthopedic Hospital and Medical Center. Robinette received a
bone marrow transplant, which at the time was an experimental
surgery. She was one of the youngest to ever have the procedure.
She went through chemotherapy, radiation and an ever-changing
plethora of medications. But worst of all, she was kept in isolation
for three months.
She spoke to her sisters through walkie-talkies, and only her
mother was allowed in the room. Doctors told the family they
had done all they could do, but her condition just wasnt
After you go through all of that, you just get tired and
want to go home; you kind of give up the fight, Robinette
She listened to her favorite group, The Jackson 5, on a sterilized
record player doctors allowed her to have.
On March 7, she received her first visitor.
I was sitting in my room looking out the window, ironically
listening to Looking Through the Window by the Jackson
5, when I heard all the nurses going wild and carrying on,
Robinette said. She looked through the plate glass that was
her only connection to the busy hospital and saw The Jackson
5 standing there. They asked me which one I wanted to
see, and I said I wanted to see Michael he was the cute
one, Robinette said, laughing.
She described the teenage Jackson as obviously shy but incredibly
kind and sincere. He gave her an autographed picture, held her
hand and asked her how she was doing. It had been so long
since Id touched someone not wearing gloves, and I saw
hair instead of just a green cap with eyeballs peeking out,
After that visit, Robinette started getting better.
I would never say that he saved her life thats
crazy but he gave her back a little of her will to live
because she had lost it, said Trine Robinette, 49, Leslies
sister. Leslie eventually did improve, and her family returned
to their farm in Greeneville, Tenn., where she still lives with
When Leslie was 17, she met Jackson again
The Jackson 5s Victory Tour came to Knoxville in August
1984 for a two-night concert that was extended a third night
because of its popularity. Nearly 50,000 fans crowded into Neyland
Stadium each night to see the concert. Leslie Robinette received
free tickets to the concerts, and on the third night, she went
backstage to meet the whole Jackson gang. She brought Michael
Jackson a hand-written birthday card. I asked him if he
remembered me, and he said yes. We talked about my singing in
chorus and how I was getting my back brace off soon, Robinette
said. Jackson then told his security detail that she was his
guest, so she got to watch the third show from a raised VIP
platform, seated right next to Jacksons mother, Katherine.
When Robinette left Seattle Childrens Hospital three months
after her first meeting with Jackson, doctors said she might
live 10 years. Still struggling with her disease, she is less
than 4 feet tall and weighs about 60 pounds, but she is now
42 and lives an active life. Like Jackson, she has a strong
passion for animals. She is involved in North American Riding
for the Handicapped Association and currently is training to
become an instructor.
Ive always felt that Michael and I were kind of
kindred spirits, because we both grew up not being able to really
go anywhere or do anything normal kids do, Robinette said.
Leslie was sitting in her rocking chair when Trine called to
tell her about Jacksons death, and she was upset by the
Both sisters agree that people can say what they want about
Michael Jackson, but he did a lot of good and they hope that
is what he will be remembered for. And, of course, his music.