Michael Jackson visits 5—year old Leslie Robinette at a hospital

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 Children’s Hospital – then The Children’s 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 wasn’t improving.

“After you go through all of that, you just get tired and want to go home; you kind of give up the fight,” Robinette said.
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 I’d touched someone not wearing gloves, and I saw hair instead of just a green cap with eyeballs peeking out,” said Robinette.

After that visit, Robinette started getting better.

“I would never say that he saved her life – that’s crazy – but he gave her back a little of her will to live because she had lost it,” said Trine Robinette, 49, Leslie’s sister. Leslie eventually did improve, and her family returned to their farm in Greeneville, Tenn., where she still lives with her parents.

When Leslie was 17, she met Jackson again

The Jackson 5’s 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 Jackson’s mother, Katherine.

When Robinette left Seattle Children’s 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.

“I’ve 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 Jackson’s death, and she was upset by the news.

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.