AKRON, Ohio -- For his first nine holes Thursday at Firestone Country Club, Marc Leishman could have looked over at his wife, Audrey, outside the ropes just to make sure she was all right.
But Leishman didn't feel that was necessary. He trusted that Audrey knew her physical limitations. She'd realized she had to call for a cart after just two holes at the Players Championship May 7. She'd gone nine for three rounds at the Memorial Tournament in June.
But Leishman, a 31-year-old Australian, will never again take for granted that Audrey is walking alongside him.
Not after she spent nearly a week in April in a medically induced coma. Not after he spent four days thinking she was going to die from acute respiratory distress syndrome, toxic shock syndrome and pneumonia. Not after he found out later that during those four days, he'd been 95 percent right.
"She's getting there," Leishman said after carding a 2-over 72 in the first round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. "She has good days and bad days. Her good days are pretty good and the bad days she sort of struggles to get out of bed. She's just trying to make the most of the good days."
But Leishman now knows all of their days together are good days.
Leishman thought he was going to be a widower. He thought he was going to have to quit the PGA Tour to raise their two sons, Harvey and Oliver. Even though he's ranked 30th in the world and just tied for second in the British Open, he was prepared to make the sacrifice.
"Traveling with a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old by yourself ... well, it wasn't going to happen," he said at the British Open. "At the time it was just, 'Righto, you're going to have to give it away and stay home with the boys and be a dad,' and I was all right with that.
"That was pretty rough there for a while, thinking about everything, the boys not growing up with their mom, me not playing golf anymore, not having a wife. Unfortunately it happens every day to people around the world."
Leishman knows he was one of the lucky ones.
Audrey Leishman came down with flu-like symptoms on March 29. Two days later, Marc headed to the Masters Tournament to practice. When Audrey's fever soared and she experienced shortness of breath, a friend convinced her to go to urgent care. Tests found nothing but strep. But with her condition deteriorating, she agreed with the doctor's request to go to the hospital by ambulance.
When Leishman returned home to Virginia Beach, Va., on Wednesday, his wife was on a ventilator. When the decision was made to put her in a coma, she and Marc said their goodbyes. She called her parents and brothers and told them she loved them.
"I was really afraid I was never going to wake up," Audrey told Helen Ross of PGATour.com at the Players Championship.
The toxic shock was shutting down her organs. Then a decision to turn Audrey over on her stomach to help break up the fluid in her lungs proved to be the turning point.
"It's amazing that she's still here. Making the most of it and living each day as it comes," Leishman said.
The life-threatening issues are past, but there are still challenges.
"There's a lot of things she's got a high risk of getting now. She practically has no immune system," Leishman said. "No energy. Getting her muscle tone back takes a long time. It's a long process, a year or two. You can't overdo it. If she overdoes it, it will put her back, so we definitely don't want that."
Audrey and their sons came to Akron, along with Leishman's parents. Next week, the clan will head to Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, Wis., where they've rented a house for the PGA Championship. Leishman knows the rugged, wind-swept links-style course along Lake Michigan isn't easy to walk, so he figures Audrey will "spend time with the boys and take them around and show them Wisconsin."
Leishman said Audrey's illness changed his perspective on life and made him a better person. He's always been pretty "chill" and tried not to let things worry him, but he's even more that way now. It's helped his golf game, lessening the frustration of a bad shot and allowing him to play more aggressively.
"Sometimes you get into a mindset where you take it too seriously, like it's a life-and-death situation. And I've just been through a real one of those," he said at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in April.
While Audrey is shying away from the media, Leishman was willing to share thoughts about their personal crisis. He appreciates the support and messages from around the world. According to PGATour.com, he even received one on Facebook, from a man from Germany named Rudolph he's never met.
"If you play the victim, there's no point doing that," Leishman said. "You've just got to try and take the positives out of it. She's still here. There was a big possibility she wasn't going to be. We're taking that road instead of the other way."
This article was written by Marla Ridenour from The Akron Beacon Journal and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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