Rosa MacLeod and her son James

Now, at 16 years old, James MacLeod is a healthy, athletic, happy young man who strives to do good and make a difference to his community – both here at home and around the world. But when he was three, James making it out of the ER, let alone to 16 years old, suddenly did not seem like a possibility.

Rosa knew her son was very ill – he had a high fever and sore throat and it wasn’t getting better. Then he developed a large lump on the right side of his neck and Rosa decided it was time to visit Credit Valley.

In Credit Valley’s ER, an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist was called in to examine James and he was diagnosed with Strep Throat. The lump was an abscess caused by the infection. Being so ill, he was admitted to the ER and spent three days there, his mother Rosa by his side.

On the third day, when James was not improving, Rosa’s “mother’s intuition” told her that something more was wrong. While contemplating what to do next, she recognized one of Credit Valley’s paediatrician’s, Dr. Zajdman, walking through the ER. In truth, she didn’t know him as Dr. Zajdman, but rather as the father of one of the girls on her daughter’s soccer team – but she took a chance and approached him, asking if he would come and examine James again.

Dr. Zajdman was very concerned by the lump on James’ neck and, to ensure a thorough examination, he ordered the CT Scanner at Credit Valley to be opened – as it was closed on Saturdays – so that he could properly see what they were dealing with.

The CT result was not good. The lump was starting to block James’ esophagus and would shortly leave him unable to breathe. Dr. Zajdman put James and his mother immediately into an ambulance and sent them downtown to Sick Kids since, at the time, Credit Valley did not yet have the regional paediatric centre it does today.

Once at Sick Kids, a further XRay indicated that the lump was also now blocking the main artery from James’ heart to his head and that there were literally only minutes left before he bled to death.

Following a successful surgery and 10 day hospital stay, James made a full recovery.

Rosa and James both feel very strongly that it was Dr. Zajdman, and his willingness to open the CT Scanner on a Saturday, that truly saved James’ life. 

Rosa believes that there are many reasons James was meant to live, but a chance meeting with Dr. Zajdman in a local grocery store a few years later, really seemed to clarify his purpose. “James asked Dr. Zajdman if he had any advice for him,” recalls Rosa. “Dr. Zajdman looked at him and said, ‘Do something good with your life.’ and we’ve really taken that to heart.”

James has visited Jamaica to work in an orphanage, he participates in The Healing Cycle to raise money for Credit Valley, and he’s worked at toy drives for various community schools. This May, James and his mother will be donating $16,000 to The Credit Valley Hospital Foundation in honour of his 16th birthday. “You don’t have to be a million dollar donor to make a difference,” says Rosa. “There are smaller ways that you can make a big difference in someone’s life,”

And while that’s true, it would seem that James is destined for something much greater.