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Examiner
  • Hoflander: Playing word game online saves a life across the world

  • I guess I could try to claim a little credit for introducing my friend, Beth Legler of Blue Springs, to the online game, Words With Friends, but it would be insignificant compared to what was to follow.

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  • “Risk-taking, trust and serendipity are key ingredients of joy. Without risk, nothing new ever happens. Without trust, fear creeps in. Without serendipity, there are no surprises.” – Rita Golden Gelman, children’s author
    I guess I could try to claim a little credit for introducing my friend, Beth Legler of Blue Springs, to the online game, Words With Friends, but it would be insignificant compared to what was to follow.
    Little did I know that through her connection with this game Beth would ultimately become a key player in saving a man’s life in Queensland, Australia.
    Neither did she.
    Here is what happened. Soon after I talked Beth into playing Words With Friends, a wildly popular online game similar to Scrabble, I quit. I was addicted and slightly bummed that I could not beat my son and his law-school buddies.
    Soon after I bailed, Beth became addicted as well. For the longest time, Beth said she was too busy with work to play, but once she started she could not stop.
    In a gesture of love and respect to her late mother, Beth created a username to honor her.
    At about the same time in Queensland, Australia, Georgina Lund downloaded the same new “hot” app. Georgina, who prefers the nickname “Georgie,” set up a game and was ready to begin. The rules state that one must choose from existing friends or choose a random opponent.
    Georgie says she chose the random opponent option because she wanted “to chill out” at the time and simply play a game but not chat with opponents. The thought of conversing with strangers did not sit right with her, she recalls, so she preferred not to chat.
    Here is where risk-taking, trust and serendipity enter our story.
    Georgie’s first opponent, as it turns out, was Beth Legler of Blue Springs, an R.N. in the Blue Springs School District. She liked Beth’s online username. It intrigued her.
    Georgie says that since they did not exchange personal information as they played the game, she guessed that her opponent was female because of her username. They played quite a few games, and eventually Beth sent a message saying simply, “Good game.”
    Hesitating to send back a message, Georgie, out of courtesy, eventually sent back “Thanks.”  
    From then on their chats would consist of one or two words. During the Christmas season of 2010, Georgie sent a message to her unknown opponent saying “Merry Christmas from Queensland, Australia.”
    Beth sent a message back saying “Merry Christmas from Missouri, USA.”
    “It wasn’t long after that you couldn’t shut the pair of us up, spending equal amounts of time chatting and playing,” Georgie says.
    Page 2 of 3 - “We talked about our jobs, countries, children, husbands, parents, pets” and eventually swapping photos of themselves and families, and “Beth’s new puppy!”
    Fast forward to September 2011 when Beth began to worry about her friend Georgie. She had not heard from her, nor had they played in about four days.
    Beth reached out through an email asking if everything was OK, hoping that the 16-hour time difference between their two worlds was the reason for Georgie’s online absence.
    Not too long after, Georgie sent a message explaining that her husband, Simon, had not been feeling well for sometime. She wrote that recently after taking their dogs for a long walk, he complained of a burning pain in the back of his throat. Simon believed he was breathing in cold air and that was the problem, but Georgie was worried.
    Georgie was perplexed as well. “I thought what is he talking about? We live in a tropical climate and the air outside was warm and humid, certainly not cold.”
    As many men often shrug off illness, Georgie commented, he continued denying anything was wrong. Day after day, the pain in his throat and heartburn became more regular. Georgie suggested he see a doctor, but he brushed off the idea saying he saw one last month and had a great checkup. No cholesterol problems and perfect blood pressure. Simon said all he needed was an antacid.
    Georgie began referring to Simon as “Mr. Self-Diagnosis,” and believed he was avoiding the truth primarily out of denial and fear.
    Eventually, Georgie began to share Simon’s dilemma with Beth online, including an incident in which he could not walk to the mailbox without difficulty.
    Immediately concerned, Beth shared this information with her husband, Larry Legler, M.D., a longtime family physician in Independence.
    Larry wanted Simon to take an aspirin and see a doctor immediately about possible angina.  
    Beth wrote Georgie: “Larry thinks Simon is in a whole lot of trouble, get him to a hospital ASAP, and Georgie, Larry believes Simon will need a cardiac catherization procedure right away.”
    Georgie explains what happened after that: “We presented at the hospital and saw a heart specialist. I told the specialist what Larry had said and why. The specialist was quite bemused by a diagnosis given by someone from the other side of the planet and a Words With Friends pal, just to make it all the more bizarre.”
    The doctor actually concurred, however, remarking, “I agree with your friend Larry and will order a test where a dye will be put through Simon’s veins and then a scan.”
    Later that afternoon, they received a call from the cardiac surgeon saying cath surgery would be first thing in the morning and that Simon had a 99 percent blockage of the left ventricle.
    Page 3 of 3 - After the surgery, Georgie said the surgeon told her that Simon would have been dead by the afternoon if someone had not intervened. He is the luckiest man in the hospital today, the doctor added.
    Georgie emailed Beth and Larry immediately saying how impressed they were with Larry’s diagnosis, made with little information. She also wrote: “We are forever grateful to him. And to you Beth, they say that nurses are God’s angels, well you are an angel to us!”
    Moral to the story: Simon says never, never self-diagnose, and Georgie says, “Please chat with your random opponents on Words With Friends or whatever game you choose. I got over my fear of opening up, took a risk and told the truth, and it saved my husband’s life.”
    Epilogue: The two women hope to meet one day in person but until then have visited on Skype.
    Georgie dumped Beth from Words With Friends because she was getting bored with the game. Beth says it was more likely that Georgie was tired of Beth beating her.
    Now, the two women play Hanging With Friends (Hangman online) every chance they get. Beth says Georgie prefers this because she beats Beth mercilessly at this game. Apparently, this highly addictive and fierce pastime between these two is not for the faint of heart.
    I’m staying offline. They scare me.

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