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Leslie Keown

Heart transplant at 9 days old, and has now celebrated her 18th Birthday.

Leslie Keown

Graduation is a time to celebrate success
For the family of Franklin-Simpson High School senior Leslie Keown that success is sweet because it will mark a milestone in Leslie’s life. A milestone she wasn’t expected to reach.

Leslie is the oldest living infant heart transplant recipient in the United States. She was not expected to make it to her graduation day.

Although her mother had a normal pregnancy and Leslie was born without complications, doctors realized soon after she arrived that her heart was not going to survive. She was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital defect that affects the main pumping chamber of the heart and prevents it from supplying the body with enough blood to sustain life.

Leslie was only 9-days-old when Dr. Constance Mauruis performed the third infant heart transplant at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville. She received the organ from a 9-week-old baby girl that died in an automobile accident. The baby’s mother worked in the medical field and agreed to donate the heart to “Baby Mary” which was the name Leslie was given on the medical listing.

All of the other infants who received the transplants during that time have died, except for Leslie.

It could be her zest for life that has helped Leslie defy the odds and make it to her 18th birthday, which she celebrated May 17 - 2005

The Franklin Favorite interviewed Leslie shortly after she turned 8-years-old when she was a third grader at Simpson Elementary. On Sunday evening she will walk the line with her fellow classmates to receive her high school diploma and she is very proud.

Despite the nine pills she takes every night and the 10 pills she takes every morning, Leslie is a normal teenager. She loves riding around town, hanging out with her friends and talking on her cell phone. Her very favourite thing is going to demolition derbies.

Her father, Keith “Tyrone” Keown and brother, Bubba Thomas, are big derby participants.

“I love the action and drama of the derby.” Leslie said, “I’ve been going to derbies since I was a baby. I’ve got the derby urge. I want a pink derby car with white polka dots and the number 17.”

A tom-boy growing up, Leslie has blossomed into a beautiful young lady. She attended the senior prom this year and although she doesn’t have a boyfriend she would like to get married someday and have four children. She has already chosen the names for her children.

Leslie has a real compassion for children. For the past three years she has worked at JC’s Playhouse and is not looking forward to giving up her job this week.

“I love my kids.” Leslie said smiling with her dimples showing, “They call me Lou Lou. I’m really going to miss them when I go to school.”

Leslie will attend Bowling Green Technical College this fall and study radiology.

“I’ve been in the medical field all of my life.” she said. “ I want to help people like they have helped me.”

Another love she has is landscape and floral design which she studied in FFA . She will spend part of the summer with her aunt, Wanda Jo Gann, in Florida doing landscape work.

One thing Leslie wants to do is to meet Oprah Winfrey and tell her story to others.

“I think people would want to know.” Leslie said. “I’m proud.”

Leslie’s mother, Stacey Keown said, “It is a blessing that I’ve got Leslie and that I get to see her graduate. It has been hard over the years but you have to take things day by day.”

Leslie travels to see her doctors at Kosair’s twice a year for check-ups. Once a year she has a battery of tests including a heart biopsy and catherization. During her last visit the doctors discovered that one of her valves was slowly closing.

“We have to change hospitals since Leslie is now an adult.” Stacey said. “We will go to Jewish Hospital on July 12 for more tests.”

Leslie is an experiment. Because she is the only infant heart transplant patient to make it to adulthood the doctors are learning from her.

“When she was young she didn’t get to socialize with other children a lot because of her condition. I had to be careful about not exposing her to anyone who was sick. She spent the first six months of her life in the hospital and her medication has given her mood swings.” Stacey said. “It was hard for Leslie to make friends, but she has some really great friends now and I am so thankful for that.”

There are some very special people in Leslie’s life who have given her inspiration.

“I love my aunt Missy (Duncan). If it wasn’t for Aunt Missy I don’t know what I would do.” Leslie said, “And my Granny (Lida Lawson) too. All of my family have been there.”

“I want to thank my doctors, mom and dad and my brother, Bubba” Leslie continued, “I have had a great life! I think about it everyday (surgery) and I am so glad I am still here.”

“It scares me everyday. If something is going to happen to me it is going to happen. I am the first infant heart transplant patient to graduate and turn 18.” Leslie said, “I’m going to make it to college, I’m gonna be a Mommy....I can do anything I want to.”

This Great story was sent to me by
Leslie & Bob Pitcock
Texas "Bob" Pitcock & Leslie met up in June 2006

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