I believe the glass is always half full, and I believe this because of a woman named Leslie McCall. Leslie was born in 1980 with only half of her heart. She was a pioneer surgical patient, and though the palliation didn’t last and she had a heart transplant at age 20, she was always leading edge. Leslie had a massive stroke and had to relearn everything. She couldn’t go to college, but she never gave up hopes that she would someday.
Leslie poured her exuberant personality into a role as a public speaker, encouraging organ donation on stages around Colorado and California. She also did the necessary nitty-gritty office work of volunteering at Donor Alliance, and helping with Children’s Miracle Network telethons. She never felt sorry for herself, and even though her condition was deteriorating as her body rejected her donor’s heart, she remained focused on what she could do. What was most inspiring about Leslie was her pure joy, gratitude, and zest for life. Half heart, or borrowed heart, Leslie’s heart was always in the right place all the time.
Leslie died February 9th. She was twenty-six years old, and while there was so much more she might have done, she did far more than most people I know. I didn’t meet Leslie in an auditorium, volunteer office, or through her telethon work. I met her in the same waiting room her mother haunted during Leslie’s many surgeries, as I was there waiting on my son, Liam, only 21 months old during his third open-heart surgery. Leslie gave me the precious gift of hope, and even with her early death, that gift has survived.
Liam is almost four now and has had five open-heart surgeries to date. We almost lost him during the last one, and we don’t know that there are more surgeries ahead, but we don’t know that there aren’t. We don’t know a lot of things, and that is a scary place to be.
Leslie taught me that, even though I want more than anything for both of my children to outlive me in years that it is possible and more important that they outlive me in living life fully. Leslie taught me not to count the minutes, but to love them and to live them. I believe that if I can teach this by example to both of my children, my healthy daughter Moira and my struggling son Liam, the benefits will be endless. I believe that the medical bills, the paralyzing fear of losing my child, the days into months in the hospital, the strain on my very soul are simply gifts that remind me every day that if my glass is not half full, it’s actually overflowing, and that no matter how long Liam lives, I am the luckiest woman in the world because I have had him in my life for just that long.
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