Wife's illness gives Leishman new perspective
Australian returns to the PGA TOUR this week after health scare stuns family
April 22, 2015
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Marc Leishman's wife Audrey recently survived toxic shock syndrome. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Four days isn’t long but can feel like forever, like you’re stuck in a nightmare you can’t wake up from. On the first day, March 31, a fever starts to come on, you vomit or have diarrhea, your blood pressure dips and your body aches. You think you’re getting the flu. No big deal; you’re the mother of two young boys and it wouldn’t be uncommon, so you visit an urgent care center near your home in Virginia Beach, Virginia, for what you hope is a quick fix while your husband is in Augusta, Georgia, preparing for the Masters.
Suddenly the world around you seems to speed up, like someone’s holding down the fast forward button. Lights and sirens flash. You struggle to breathe. You’re being rushed to the hospital. Doctors can’t quite pinpoint your illness.
Time, meanwhile, starts to slow. Seconds begin to feel like minutes. You are hooked up to a ventilator and there’s a suffocating feeling as a machine pumps oxygen into your body. You hear the voices of doctors and nurses and family but struggle to keep your eyes open because of the propofol coursing through your blood. You and your husband tell each other how much you love one another and say goodbye. Light becomes dark and you slip into a weird dream state as you are induced into a coma.
Toxic shock syndrome is a rare, life-threatening complication of certain bacterial infections. Acute respiratory distress syndrome occurs when fluid builds up in the small, elastic air sacs in the lungs. The more fluid there is in the lungs, the less oxygen there is to reach the bloodstream and the rest of your organs, which will then begin shutting down. It is then that Marc Leishman is told that his wife Audrey has a 5-percent chance of surviving.
“That was really tough,” says Leishman, who would spend nearly every minute of the next 96 hours by Audrey’s bedside. “I didn’t eat really for four or five days.”
When he could, Leishman would nibble on fruit from a basket Charley Hoffman and his wife Stacy had sent over. It was one of several that fellow PGA TOUR players had sent the Australian, along with dozens of text messages, flowers and cards.
Marc Leishman with son Harvey at the 2014 Masters. (Harry How/Getty Images)
At night, Leishman would go home and put his two boys, 20-month-old Oliver and 3-year-old Harvey, to bed. Oliver was too young to know what was happening, but Harvey was old enough to realize something was wrong.
“He understood when things weren’t good,” Leishman says of his eldest son. “I couldn’t say it to him -- that his mom might not come home again -- so I kept telling him she’ll be home soon.
“That was one of the hardest things, trying to be positive when inside I knew (the outlook) wasn’t. He saw a lot of things a 3-year-old should never see.”
A flood of emotions and thoughts that Leishman never thought he’d have also overtook him. Missing the Masters didn’t matter. Within a span of four days, the 31-year-old had seen the woman he met one night in 2006 during a Nationwide Tour stop in Virginia Beach and married four years later, go from 100 percent healthy to 95 percent dead. Family surrounded Leishman with support but he couldn’t help but think he would soon be alone and raising the boys by himself.
But over those four days Audrey would show an incredible will to live. It helped that she was fit and young. Marc did his part, too, playing music for her, putting videos of their two boys in front of her; any noises she’d recognize.
Doctors were also able to flip her onto her stomach to help with the fluid in her lungs. Slowly, Audrey’s condition improved.
She was taken off sedation and three days later awoke from her coma. She couldn’t pick up her cell phone and didn’t have the strength to talk but it didn’t matter.
“She used her face muscles and gave me a big smile,” Leishman said, choking up. “That was pretty emotional. I told her how much I love her.”
Audrey is recovering at the couple’s Virginia Beach home. The rehabilitation process will be long and she is a bit scarred mentally, says her husband, who added that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
“I am just really grateful to still be here,” Audrey said earlier this week. “I really appreciate the strength I have and my health and I appreciate every kiss and cuddle I can give my kids, every boo boo I can kiss away, every tussle of their hair. I appreciate everything.
“I never really allowed myself to ask why it happened. I have instead chosen to focus on the fact that I survived and the amount of love and support everyone has shown us. It has been so overwhelming and humbling to see how many people are in our corner and supported us.”
There will be plenty of support, too, when Marc goes back to work this week at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The TOUR is like one big family. It will also be the first time he has played golf in a month and he isn’t sure what to expect. It doesn’t matter what Leishman shoots, though he says he hopes to be in contention on Sunday. Just give him four days.
“It really put things in perspective,” Leishman said. “You have your bad days on the course, or think it’s a bad day then you go through something like this. Your life gets turned upside down. Three weeks ago it was looking like I was going to be done with golf.
“When Audrey first woke up the first thing she said was ‘I love you’ and then said something like ‘I’m sorry about the Masters.’ She got pretty upset. I told her not to worry about it, it’s just golf. She and the boys are more important than golf. It’s a long road ahead but having her still here will make this week a pretty enjoyable week, whether I play well or not.”