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Monday, May 22, 2000

Tot's life turns into reprieve for three
Upon his death, the family donates his organs to children on a waiting list.

By Sharyn Obsatz
The Press-Enterprise


Max McLeod's family. Father Wayne , mother Carolyn Bowe-McLeod and daughter Jorden,3 1/2.

Peter Phun
The Press-Enterprise


Carolyn Bowe-McLeod lost one child last month but saved three others.

Her 13-month-old son, Max, died a few days after falling into the swimming pool at his grandfather's house in Upland. Max's liver, kidneys and heart were transplanted into three Southern California children in need of new organs.

"It's a tragedy and we lost him. But we didn't, part of him is still alive," said Bowe-McLeod, 29, who lives in Palmdale. "It was a way for us to not absolutely have to say goodbye."

One of the children saved by Max, 9-month-old Alexandria CaHoon, had been slowly dying of a weak heart at Loma Linda University Medical Center until the March 22 transplant.

Now she's out of the hospital and living with family in Riverside, cooling her emerging teeth with banana yogurt and babbling on the phone to relatives.

Max Bowe-McLeod died at age 13 months and his liver, kidneys and heart were donated to save the lives of three children.

Alexandria's mother, Danielle CaHoon, has written to the donor family.

"She said, `Let me tell you how strong your son's heart is,' " Bowe-McLeod said. "I was just bawling."

Bowe-McLeod urged more families to think about organ donation, something she and her husband, Wayne Bowe-McLeod, 29, never talked about until the tragedy. Last week was National Organ Donor Awareness Week. Loma Linda and San Bernardino County will celebrate Organ Donor Awareness Day on May 9.

She also urged families to put fences around their swimming pools.

Max had just learned how to run a couple weeks before the Saturday morning when he disappeared for a few minutes while his dad was watching him, his 3-year-old sister and two young cousins, Carolyn Bowe-McLeod said.

The night before, his family had caught him a couple times trying to get into the pool, she said. Just before 10 a.m. Saturday, Max took another run at the pool, fell in and never regained consciousness.

"Max loves swimming, he loved the pool," she said. Her father has since put up a black, 4-foot-tall mesh fence around the pool, she said. "If there's going to be children, have a fence. I thought this could never happen to me."

Max's sister, Jorden, used to pick out his clothes and carry him around, she said. "She talks about him every single day."

Max's kidneys went to a boy in Los Angeles and his liver went to a child in Orange County, she said. "They're all doing great."

Miles away in Riverside, the mother of Max's heart recipient said her daughter has suddenly come alive again.

"She looks like a different kid, you wouldn't even recognize her," Danielle CaHoon, 21, said about baby Alexandria. "She's eating her toes. She's screaming when she hurts. She's really doing what a normal child does. She has the energy to be ornery if she wants to."

CaHoon said she's received support from family members and from strangers who have donated money to help cover medical costs.

Alexandria's heart had been weakened by a viral infection when she was 2 months old. Doctors predicted she would die within a year.

Her mother had brought her from Seattle to Loma Linda three months ago in the hopes that university hospital's resources and reputation would increase Alexandria's chances of getting a new heart.

The father, Sterling CaHoon, 25, had stayed in Washington to keep his courier job and the family's life insurance. He flew in for the early morning transplant operation.

Carolyn Bowe-McLeod said maybe Max's heart donation to Alexandria was predestined. She said that if Max had been born a girl, they had picked out the name Brooke Alexandra.

"He did more than most people," she said about Max and his full first year of life. "We believe he had a bigger mission than what we comprehend. He saved three people."

Meanwhile, the wait continues for three children still hoping for heart transplants at Loma Linda University Medical Center: Brenden Currie, a 9-month-old boy from Vancouver, Canada; Asato Tsuji, a 4-year-old girl from Japan; and Zackery O'Kessen, a 20-month-old boy from Ramona in San Diego County.

For more information on organ donation, call the Southern California Organ Procurement Center's 24-hour hotline at 1-800-338-6112.

To help the families on the Loma Linda waiting list, call the hospital's community relations office at (909) 558-4419.

Sharyn Obsatz can be reached at or (909) 792-6547.


Published 4/28/2000

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