Madlene Sark collected 365 heart-shaped messages to lift spirits for her ailing friend after his acts of kindness helped her out of a dark place
LENNOX ISLAND, P.E.I. - What started as an act of kindness to brighten the day of an ailing friend in Lennox Island First Nation has grown to see an outpouring of support from around the world.
Leslie Labobe, who now lives on Lennox Island, had an active lifestyle helping others as a community health educator for Healing Our Nations based in Atlantic Canada, working with 33 First Nations.
“I almost went into septic shock. My haemoglobin (blood count) was supposed to be 180 and it was 62, so I ended up getting three blood transfusions in 24 hours.” - Leslie Labobe
His experience as a paramedic brought him on several humanitarian missions across the world. He lived and taught in Malawi, central Africa, as well as worked with the Canadian and American Red Cross covering the Los Angeles earthquake, Georgia floods, Swiss Air disaster, Hurricane Katrina, 9/11 to name but a few before health complications took its toll and he was left bedridden for weeks in late 2018.
“There are about eight natural disasters where I worked,” he said while listing them off.
“But two years ago (in 2017) I got a splinter in my foot and my life changed. I was walking around unaware because I couldn’t feel it as a result of my diabetes. I ended up getting osteomyelitis, an infection in the bone, that spread to the bloodstream.”
In November, he was rushed to hospital after falling several weeks earlier and not realizing he had compression fractures to his lumbar two, three, and five. But this was not the reason for his hospital stay, thinking it was his fractured back, he was in kidney failure.
“I almost went into septic shock. My haemoglobin (blood count) was supposed to be 180 and it was 62, so I ended up getting three blood transfusions in 24 hours.”
Illness-related anxiety and stress triggered Labobe to have symptoms of depression.
“It was like a crash and burn situation that went from hopelessness, despair, negativity, and I was even making arrangements for a funeral service because of this grave illness. I had plans to meet with the funeral director because I thought I was done,” he said. “This house was just a house and I isolated myself from family and friends.”
Madlene Sark noticed her friend was falling into a dark place – where she too had been before – and reached out to help.
“I was on my way to IWK Hospital in Halifax because my son Gerry has a rare and life-limiting disease, and I read a Facebook post by Leslie. It was a cry for help because he is normally such a bubbly person. My heart went out to him and I began to think of ways to show him I cared,” said Sark.
Sark secretly took to social media and gathered friends and family around the world to send messages of love and support to Leslie.
After only 10 days, she had 200 responses from across the globe.
Sark had a fellow community member, Joyce LaBobe, create hearts from tobacco boxes. She then handwrote the messages received online on the hearts and placed them into jars.
“When I approached (LaBobe) with the idea, it just felt meant to be,” said Sark. “My goal was that every single day this year Leslie would know that he’s deeply cared for.”
Labobe said he was speechless when he opened the first jar of hearts. He now has 11 in total.
“At 12:01 (a.m.) every night, I open up one of the jars for inspiration,” he said.
Sark said she never thought the small gesture would grow into a world-wide initiative.
“It’s crazy. It was just the feeling the Creator sometimes puts inside you to act and help a friend. And through Leslie’s work and all the blessings he has done for other people this good karma is coming back to him,” she said.
The kindness Sark showed to Labobe also came around full circle at Christmas.
Sark noted a Christmas wish she had posted online, to get a picture of her son with Santa, was granted by her friend Tashia Maynard.
“She even hired a professional photographer to capture the moment,” said Sark with a warm smile.
On Dec. 10, 2019, Sark and Labobe plan to celebrate, reflect on the 365 messages of inspiration, and look back on the year.
Labobe also plans to hang all the hearts on his future Christmas trees as a garland.