'Words With Friends' saves man's life

"Words with friends" as played on the iPhone
"Words with friends" as played on the iPhoneZynga / Today

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By Athima Chansanchai

UPDATE: Beth Legler called msnbc.com back, so we've included information from her interview.

The rise of social media has not only led to new friendships — especially in gameplay — but in the case of two couples who met and played "Words With Friends," it helped prevent one woman from becoming a widow.

One couple, Dr. Larry Legler and his wife Beth, based in Missouri, met another couple, Simon and Georgie Fletcher from Australia, through the hugely popular Scrabble-ish word game more than a year ago. They were all in their 50s and enjoyed the release from long workdays the game gave them. Beth Legler, who I interviewed today (Jan. 14) after leaving a message yesterday, plays on her iPhone and iPad and has scored 120 points in one move. The friendship between the two women who found a common passion for words and strategy developed gradually, but once they engaged in chat, it took off to the point where the ladies emailed regularly and even Skyped (hard to do with a 16-hour time difference!).

During their conversations, Georgie Fletcher revealed to her friend how her husband Simon had collapsed, been sick and to the hospital in the past year, with all the bloodwork coming back normal. But in mid-November, three or four days had gone by and Beth Legler had not heard from Georgie Fletcher, which was unusual for them.

"For me, it was an intuition that I hadn’t heard from her," said Beth Legler. "That was when she wrote me back, and as an RN, I sprung into action and wrote back right away."

Simon Fletcher's symptoms had progressed to fatigue so bad it was hard for him to walk to the mailbox. For a man who used to walk his dogs for an hour, it was enough of a sign to the Leglers that something was seriously wrong with their friend.

After talking with her husband, a family practitioner who lives and works in a suburb of Kansas City, Mo., they suggested taking an aspirin, but two things tipped them over to strongly urge the Fletchers to immediately seek medical attention at a hospital. One was the fact he had trouble walking to the mailbox, and the second was the burning at the back of his throat, which he thought was reflux.

Dr. Larry Legler believed it could actually be angina.

"Late in the evening, I sent the note off, I was beside myself, I didn’t know when she would see it, and I tossed and turned in bed," Beth Legler recalled. "They were out shopping. But Georgie checked her phone and they went to hospital." 

They followed his advice, and as they told the story to Kansas City's KCTV, it saved Simon Fletcher's life, as the doctors who treated him found a "99 percent blockage near his heart."

He told them, "I've gotta buy that man a beer, he saved my life ... I'd  really like to put my arms around him and give him a big squeeze."

And Beth Legler told us he recovered quickly after a surgery in which 2 stents were put in through the radial artery in his wrist.

For her, this experience has made a big impact on her.

"All of this technology can serve the good or the evil and where you choose to go with that is really a personal decision, " she said. "But it does say, one person can make a difference. That game means more to us than it could ever mean, a starting off point for a friendship that will last for all time for the four of us. The goal for us is to meet."

We've seen "Words With Friends" lead to marriage, as well as to Alec Baldwin's ejection from a flight, as it has amassed players (getting on Facebook certainly helped), but this might be the first instance of the game being instrumental in life-saving.

How many points is that worth?

Hear the couples tell their own story here:

More stories on how social media has made an impact:

Check out Technolog on Facebook, and on Twitter, follow Athima Chansanchai, who is also trying to keep her head above water in the Google+ stream.