PreMergency (a “Coming Soon” story)

by Bruce Kasanoff on December 13, 2010

(Here’s another fictionalized story I wrote partly for fun, and partly to illustrate the ways I hope my 1toEverything chart gets your imagination going. By the way, the lodge and the dogs really exist.)

Two miles into her hike, Sara could finally see the ridgeline up ahead. From there, she would have an amazing view of Echo Valley.

Following instructions from Nan, owner of the guest ranch, she began her hike by calling out, “Who wants to go for a walk?” to the nine Australian Shepherds who lived on the ranch. Four joined her. The dogs would give plenty of notice to the bears and other wildlife that lived in the woods of British Columbia, preventing any nerve-wracking meetings.

Sara hiked past the pasture that was home to about 40 horses, and followed the twisting path through the woods. It was a gorgeous early morning, and the cool temperatures kept her comfortable and energized.

Up ahead, Sara heard the dogs barking. A few strides later, she had her first glimpse of the clearing at the top of the ridge, and was surprised to see the dogs surrounding a man who was sitting cross-legged on a big boulder. Their tails were wagging enthusiastically, so she decided to trust their instincts.

“Hey,” the man said with a big grin, “You found my secret hiding place.”

“I didn’t mean to bother you,” Sara responded.

“No worries. Besides, you brought some of my friends with you.” He held out his hand. “I’m Jake, staying at Echo Valley just like you.”

“Sara,” she said, shaking his hand.

“A pleasure. Did you come in last night? I don’t remember you from dinner.”

“Yep. We didn’t get here until after 10. I didn’t realize it would take six hours to get here from Vancouver.”

“It does, unless you have Norm fly you in.” Norm was the other owner, a passionate pilot who built his own airstrip on the ranch’s property and gladly flew in any guest who didn’t want to endure the lengthy drive over not very good roads. “I’ve been here four days, and every morning I come out here to meditate. This spot is one of the main reasons I’ve been coming to the ranch for four years.”

Sara sat down on a rock opposite Jake. She looked out over the vista, which stretched for dozens of miles. Nothing but wilderness and blue skies. Heaven.

“It’s great that you meditate. I’ve tried it off and on.”

“It’s part of my job, literally. We’re required to meditate and exercise consistently.”

Sara looked back at Jake. He was about 30, lean and strong, with close-cropped hair. She couldn’t figure out what his line of work was, so she asked, “What sort of job requires meditation?”

“PreMergency crews.”

“Pre Mergency? As in before an emergency?”

Jake smiled. He liked explaining his job, especially since less than 100 people in the world had so far been trained to do it.

“I’m part of a test program in Minneapolis in which we respond to potential medical emergencies before they happen. The meditation and exercise requirement is because we’re constantly showing up on people’s doorsteps and telling them they are just minutes away from a heart attack or other life-threatening problem. We need to project calm, assertive energy, or otherwise the person might freak and die.”

Sara narrowed her eyes. She was trying to decide if he was being sincere, or putting her on. But he really did project calm and assertive energy, so she decided to believe him.

“How do you know someone is about to face an emergency?”

“Lots of ways. We have almost two dozen wireless biosensors that monitor heart rate, pulse, and other vital signs. With elderly patients, we monitor movements like stride length and cadence. We use different sensors for different patients. Over 35,000 patients are enrolled in the program, ranging from the very sick to some who are in better shape than you or me.”

“No way.”

“Yes way. All the signals go into an automated center, and when anything varies from normal, someone like me goes out to check. I’m somewhere between an emergency medic and God.”

Sara took a moment to digest this. It was a lot to absorb at 7 a.m. She imagined a middle-aged man sitting in a big easy chair, rubbing his chest to wish away indigestion, when the doorbell rings. Jake is at the door and says something like: you’re not going to rub away that pain; let’s get you to the hospital and stop that heart attack before it happens.

“Why do you say God?” she asked.

“In the past three months, I’ve saved twelve people who most likely would have died if I hadn’t rang their bell. One was a mother who gave birth three weeks later; she was going to name her child after me, but it turned out to be a girl. In most of the cases, the person didn’t even know anything was wrong. It sure feels like divine intervention.”

A dog came over and pushed Jake’s leg with his snout. “Sorry, Wally, are we ignoring you?”

Jake put his hand up, and the dog went up on his hind legs and hit Jake’s hand with a paw. “He likes to slap five,” said Jake, with pleasure.

Sara had a thought. “You’re sort of like Wally and his friends. You sniff out trouble before it happens, and you keep the bears and humans separate. Only instead of bears, you chase away all sorts of grizzly medical problems.”

“Ouch,” replied Jake, grimacing in good nature at the weak pun even as he warmed up to Sara.

“Playing dog, or playing God. Might be the same thing, except for the order of the letters. Either way, I love my job.”

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Norm Dove December 13, 2010 at 4:15 pm

An attention getting story with intriguing content!

Susan December 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Love it, just love it…..you can picture the whole thing happening..

Frances December 13, 2010 at 6:52 pm

What a wonderful story, I am so glad I decided to click on the link. Thanks for adding to my day.

Katie December 13, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Awesome!!!!
Very uplifting!!!!!

Roberta December 13, 2010 at 8:41 pm

OK, was a little put off by the almost-quote “calm and assertive.” As an ICU RN, I certainly do appreciate the need and potential for this type of program. As a native of Minneapolis, I also appreciate the need particularly at this time of year when many normally sedentary people need to shovel snow – and experience heart attacks. I need to follow up on this. Thanks so much for sharing.

Joan Willner December 14, 2010 at 12:42 am

Wonderful story!

Rosa December 14, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Great story! enjoyed it and am ready for more!

Dena Stapleton December 14, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Great story, yes I too could picture the whole thing. Great visually-driven phrases for us to feel like we are there and experiencing it all. Great job! Very interesting story though. I’m sure it is happening somewhere! Why not they have tracking devices in elderly patients as a trial for when they wander off they can be found.

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