Make a difference
Both Susan Winn and Annmarie Keogh credit blood donations for helping to save their children’s lives. Please consider donating by calling the American Red Cross at (800) 448-3543 or Life South Community Blood Center at (770) 538-0500.
But the festivities meant a lot more for the pair than just cheering on their football team and grooving to the music the next night during the dance.
For Winn and Keogh, both 17, the weekend was a celebration of life itself.
The two met about a year ago in Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite Hospital, where both were battling for their lives.
Winn was in the thick of her battle against a brain tumor diagnosed in August 2007 and Keogh was just beginning treatments for AML Leukemia, which he had been diagnosed with in April 2008.
Madison’s mom, Susan, explained that the nurses introduced the two families.
“They have so many babies and little kids there that when they get teenagers, they kind of push those families to meet each other,” she said.
After meeting, she and Annmarie Keogh discovered their families lived about 10 minutes apart and both had previously lived in Ohio.
“I told Madison there was a boy named Anthony who was her age who lived closed to us and asked if she knew him,” she said.
At the time, she didn’t, having attended Wesleyan in Norcross the previous four years while Keogh went to South Forsyth middle and high schools.
But she soon introduced herself.
“My mom said, ‘Anthony Keogh is in the hall,’” Winn said. “I told her to tell him to come in and I gave him a little unicorn. I said, ‘Do you like unicorns? Here’s a baby unicorn for you’. And we laughed about it.”
“I thought, ‘What’s wrong with this chick?’” he joked.
The two have been laughing together ever since.
Both mothers said the teens spent as much time together as they could while completing their cancer treatments at Scottish Rite.
Winn spent some 220 days in the hospital, undergoing three surgeries and “a lot of chemo [therapy] and a ton a radiation.”
Keogh spent about six months in the hospital, completing three rounds of chemotherapy and then receiving a bone marrow transplant from his 14-year-old brother, Dominic.
Both teens are now in full remission and getting back into the swing of normal life. But due to their health problems, they had to miss an entire year of high school. That has lead to an even closer friendship in this, their junior year.
“We’re both a year behind, so we were really the only people each other knew,” Winn said.
While they don’t have any classes together, they find time for one another during the day.
“We’ll see each other a little bit in the morning and then we’ll bump into each other some during the day,” said Winn, who wants to become a pediatric oncology nurse to share her experience with others.
When not in school, they’re like most teens and enjoy texting and Facebook, going to Braves games and just hanging out and watching movies.
Despite not knowing many of her classmates, Winn was crowned Lambert’s homecoming princess.
“I was pretty shocked,” she said. “But it felt good.”
Her selection didn’t surprise principal Gary Davison, who said both she and Keogh are outstanding students who have been great examples for their peers.
“Madison and Anthony are two of the most wonderful students I have had a chance to be around,” Davison said. “I can easily say that Lambert High School is a much better place for both of them being here.
“It’s too easy for students to blend into the background of a large high school, but they have exhibited themselves as true inspirations by their quiet strength and resilience. Their humility and determination are examples of the finest characteristics that young people can show.”
As for her date to the Sept. 26 dance, Winn said there was never any doubt who she would go with.
“I heard I was on the [homecoming court] and I saw him outside his class and said, ‘Hey, you’re going with me to the dance,’” she said.
“It’s easy to be friends with him because he’s been through the same thing I have. He’s even seen me bald, so there’s no secrets here.”
Keogh, who wants to become a graphic artist, agrees.
“It was nice going to the dance with her,” he said, adding it was his first time going to one. “I’m not really much of a dancer, but I just like to hang out with her.”