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Lean On Me

An Emergency Story by




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Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on


New Year’s Eve 1978

Daniel Hightower heard the familiar lyrics of the 1972 hit by Bill Withers “Lean On Me” coming from the cassette player in the den where his wife of one year, Rosemary, was sitting on the huge plush couch in front of the fireplace with her “to do list”, resumes, pamphlets and a host of other papers laying in front of her on the coffee table.   Daniel and Rosemary should be celebrating their one year anniversary that evening but Rosemary was trying to get everything in order so that she could open an Equine Therapy Center for children with Asperger's, Autism, and Traumatic Stress Disorder on the grounds of their recently completed ranch in Agoura, CA.

Daniel met Rosemary while visiting his aunt, Dr. Margaret Hightower, on New Year’s Eve 1976.

 Daniel had been a champion rodeo rider but an injury at the Spring Festival on the Indian reservation in Lame Deer, Montana had forced him to retire.  Daniel’s father had sent him to visit his aunt hoping the California sun and some TLC from his sister, who was a therapist, would help Daniel with the depression that had gripped him the remainder of 1975 because he could no longer ride the rodeo circuit.

Daniel’s aunt hosted a New Year’s Eve party for members of her staff since she had several attractive young ladies working for her.  Her hope was that one would help get Daniel out his depressed state.

Dr. Margaret Hightower was busy introducing her nephew to everyone…..Daniel‘s eyes had landed on a gorgeous fair skinned blond girl with sparkling dark eyes and a smile that would make you do anything she asked.   She was dressed in western wear and looking over a pamphlet about the benefits of Equine Therapy.   Dr. Hightower noticed that her nephew seemed frozen in place and followed his gaze to see his eyes were locked on her newest staff member Rosemary Smith.  Her close friends called her JJ.    




Rosemary Smith had grown up in a boarding school in London funded by the Hughes Foundation headquartered out of Santa Barbara, CA.    She didn’t know anything about her family accept that according to boarding school records she was born in Montana. Her race was listed as mixed with a notation saying her father was white and her mother was Indian but she was faired skinned with blond hair, bright sparkling dark eyes and a smile that could make you do anything she wanted. The only tie to her past was a handmade Indian dream catcher that had stitching that said “Our Princess JRG”.

As she grew up, Rosemary was often visited by a distinguished woman from California, Mrs. Rosemary Hughes.  She was the wife of the gentleman that was the head of the foundation that ran the boarding school.   Rosemary wasn’t sure why Mrs. Hughes took such a liking to her but she did look forward to her visits.   Mrs. Hughes would tell her young friend stories about her brother Roderick Gage who had been married to an Indian from Montana named Red Moon.  

She talked often about her nephew who had come to live with her when he was 14 years old because his father had died when he was 8, his mother died right before his 12th birthday and because her young nephew was harmed by an uncle.  JJ could see the pain in Mrs. Hughes face has she discussed having to take John, Johnny to his close friends, from doctor to doctor trying to find someone who could help her nephew with an issue they finally diagnosed as Asperger's Syndrome complicated by Traumatic Stress Disorder.  

Rosemary would tell Mrs. Hughes about the constant dreams she had about a small young boy with pleading eyes reaching out to her stuttering “h h e p peas…” Other images were of a man hurting children in ways Rosemary never wanted to discuss with anyone and would send shivers down her spine only to then see images of the little boy laying close or holding her hand and stroking her hair stuttering,  “JJ… JJ” giving her an overwhelming feeling of love which is probably why she had close friends call her JJ, her distinguished friend surmised.

As Rosemary thought about what she wanted to do with her life,  she decided that she would help future aunts from having the despaired look of her long time friend Mrs. Hughes by working with children with  Asperger’s  and to comfort the pleading eyes of any child reaching out for help due to Traumatic Stress Disorder.

As she studied and read more on the syndrome and its treatments, she came across information on Equine Therapy and knew that is what she wanted to do.  She had told Mrs. Hughes of the desire and Mrs. Hughes promised Rosemary that when she was ready all she needed to do was go to the Hughes Foundation and any funding she needed would be there for her.

On Christmas Day 1975, Rosemary left London. She was on her way to meet with Dr. Margaret Hightower in California to work for her and begin building the Equine Therapy Center with funds left earmarked for her by her lifelong friend Rosemary Hughes who was away on a project.  Rosemary missed the stories about the latest girl won and lost by her friend’s nephew.  She hoped to meet him one day.  She did know John was a paramedic for LA County and worked out of Station 51.  



March 1978

 “Mornin Guys…” The tired voice of paramedic John Gage made the others in the day room look up from what they were doing.  They also noticed Station 51’s youngest crew member walked to the coffee pot. Johnny seldom walked anywhere… he bounced, trotted, bounded or ran but rarely walked.


“What’s up Junior…?” Johnny’s best friend and partner Roy DeSoto asked as he began to see the worried eyes of Station 51s A shift notice their exuberate crew mate seemed unusually quiet.   


 “Are my “grandchildren” zapping that Gage energy…..?” Roy asked jokingly


Johnny and his gorgeous Indian wife, Danella had been blessed with twins, named Roy Joseph and Kathleen Joanne in January of 1977, 2 weeks after returning from a trip to Lame Deer, MT.  It was an Indian custom for a male child to have his grandfather’s name.  Roy was touched when John named his son after him and that his daughter carried the name on of Roy’s wife Joanne.

“Jus got stuff on my mind”……” his young partner whispered with a sigh...

Roy could tell his young friend was not in the mood to talk this morning, but Roy WOULD find out what was on his mind…..





Roy’s best friend was unusually quiet their entire shift.   When Johnny stepped outside for some air, Roy followed…..

“C’mon Junior …..Talk to me”, Roy begged.

John Gage drew in a long breathe his face a mix of emotions as he turned toward his partner….



“It all started Christmas Day”, Johnny spoke softly … “I had this odd feeling all day like I wanted and needed to remember something from my past but I couldn’t”….


Johnny sighed again before continuing….”I felt this strong need to stay with the twins”…. “I can’t explain it.”, John continued….


“The elders at the reservation would say a spirit from my past was returning,” he said with a slight shudder and shiver.


“Good spirit or bad?” Johnny’s best friend Roy asked with empathy while reaching up brush a lock of his young partner’s dark sable hair from his forehead. 

“Dunno”, Johnny replied with a shrug.  “Sometimes I felt totally at peace and other times I was terrified…… one time I thought I even went out for just a little while”, he explained with tears welling up in his dark eyes.


Anytime John’s Asperger’s would take over he would refer to it as being away or going out for a while.


Roy wiped the tear that had gotten past Johnny’s long lashes and softly touched his cheek urging him to continue without saying a word.   Roy and his young partner knew each other well and often it only took a look or a nod to know what the other was thinking.

“Roy...” Johnny sobbed, tears flowing freely now….. “W  w  hat if the t t t wins have it?” …. the words came in a despairing gasp.   “I would hate for anyone to go through what I have”, Johnny exclaimed pitifully….”


“Junior look at me”, Roy said softly as he lifted up Johnny’s chin so that his dark eyes met with his blue eyes.


“I can’t answer whether the twins will have Asperger’s”…  “But I can say with full assurance they will NOT go through what you did”…..   “If the time comes, Roy said, brushing his hand across his best friends forehead “we will all deal with it together…”


“I should have never let Danella get pregnant,” Johnny sobbed….   “It will be all my fault if they have to deal with….. THIS…..”


“JOHN RODERICK GAGE….”  Roy yelled….. “STOP IT… I don’t ever want you to regret bringing those two beautiful children into this world…”


“I I ‘m s s o r r y….” was the reply that Johnny managed to whimper as he tried to choke back the tears. 


“Don’t be sorry…” Roy said soothingly…..”Promise me you will get this thought out of your thick skull…”  Roy demanded knowing how his best friend could obsess.


“I’ve been doing some research…”  Roy continued….”There are studies going on looking into whether Asperger’s is hereditary or if other factors come into play and I’ve been seeing information about Equine Therapy being helpful especially with children……”  


“Why don’t you pull yourself together…?” Roy urged his young friend……”I’m going to call and see if Dr. Hightower could meet with us today…”   “She is more qualified to answer your concerns…” 


“Okay Pally,”   John sighed as Roy went back into the station to call Dr. Margaret Hightower.


Roy had become acquainted with Dr. Hightower through a recommendation from Dr. Kelly Brackett.  She trained Roy and Joanne in touch therapy.  Even though the touch therapy was embarrassing for both he and Johnny, they both knew it helped. 

Roy DeSoto and his young partner, John Gage,   were greeted warmly by Dr. Margaret Hightower.    She was always glad to see both of them even though she didn’t see them often since Roy was John’s devoted touch therapist.


She urged them to sit and smiled brightly asking “What can I do for LA County’s Best Paramedic Team today?  Noticing how unusually quiet her young client John Gage was along with the dark circles under his eyes and the worry lines in his forehead.

“Margaret,” Roy began “Johnny is concerned about the twins having Asperger’s”.   From their touch therapy sessions Roy had learned that Johnny was between 18 – 24 months when his first symptoms started.

Dr. Hightower, looked at the two of them warmly and explained…”There is a strong genetic component with Asperger’s, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you will inherit it from your parents, or that your children will inherit from you, only that you have a higher likelihood of having Asperger’s than the general population if someone in your family has Asperger’s.”

She went onto explain that even in a case of twins it is possible for one to have Asperger’s and the other will have no symptoms.   “Even though it has been shown that Asperger’s has genetic links, genes are tricky. Twins with identical DNA can have different phenotypic traits (phenotype being the term used to describe the physical result of genes). This is because genes need to be turned on during development to be active, and if they don't get the right signal, they'll never do anything. It's not likely for the gene(s) to be active in one twin and not the other, but it is possible.”  

“John don’t work yourself up over the twins……. If and when it is determined one or the other is diagnosed with Asperger’s, you will be there for them and Roy and I will be there for you….”



“There are new studies and therapies coming out each day…,” Dr. Hightower continued...


“If the two of you are not in a rush I would love for you to go with me to Agoura to the Equine Therapy Center that just opened….”


Dr. Hightower explained that having an Equine Therapy Center as a program for her clients had always been dream since she begins seeing studies as early as 1969, that the North American riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) recognized the physically therapeutic impact of riding for those with physical disabilities. The benefit horses can offer extends beyond the physical realm…..”  She then read them a poem……

I Saw a Child

By John Anthony Davies

I saw a child who couldn't walk,
sit on a horse, laugh and talk.
Then ride it through a field of daisies
and yet he could not walk unaided.

I saw a child, no legs below,
sit on a horse, and make it go
through woods of green
and places he had never been
to sit and stare,
except from a chair.

I saw a child who could only crawl
mount a horse and sit up tall
Put it through degrees of paces
and laugh at the wonder in our faces

I saw a child born into strife,
Take up and hold the reins of life
and that same child was heard to say,
Thank God for showing me the way.



It was a 60 minute drive from Carson to Agoura to reach the newly opened Equine Therapy Center being run by Rosemary Hightower with the help of her husband, former rodeo champion, Daniel Hightower who was Dr.  Margaret Hightower’s nephew.   


It was a beautiful spring day and the sights they saw as they drove into the Center were amazing.



        http://ts1.mm.bing.net/th?id=I.4718013738976588&pid=1.7&w=136&h=153&c=7&rs=1http://www.petscareinfo.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Equine-Therapy.jpg http://www.ridingtherapy.com/graphics/jb3.jpg

        http://www.greenhorn-horse-facts.com/images/Gentlea2.jpg     http://resources3.news.com.au/images/2012/05/17/1226359/416731-horse-therapy.jpg   http://www.elementshealthspace.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Therapy-horse.jpg


 Daniel Hightower noticed his aunt’s car and came to greet her and her guests flashing her his famous cowboy smile before kissing his aunt on the cheek.


“Whatcha think Aunt Margaret...”  Daniel beamed……


“I’m speechless…” his aunt replied with admiration introducing Roy and Johnny to her nephew who both recognized him from his championship rodeo days.  They discussed briefly the accident that happened during the Spring Festival at the Indian Reservation in Lame Deer Montana that forced him to retire from the rodeo circuit.   How he and his wife met on New Year’s Eve 1976, were married on New Year’s Eve 1977, and how by their first anniversary on New Year’s Day 1978 the two of the were within months of opening up this center.

Out of the corner of her eye, Dr. Margaret Hightower saw her nephew’s pretty fair skinned blond hair wife with dark sparkling eyes coming toward them. 

“Rosemary Hightower...” she began…”I want to introduce you to a couple of very special men and the best paramedic team in LA County”…. “This is Roy DeSoto...”    Rosemary smiled and shook Roy’s hand.    Dr. Hightower continued…..   “This is John Gage, Johnny to his close friends”


As Rosemary reached out to shake Johnny’s hand, she flashed him that smile that will make you say and do anything she asked of you.  As their hands and eye’s met it was as though a thousand volts of electricity went through both of them.  Johnny had this overwhelming urge to reach out and stroke Rosemary’s hair and she suddenly felt a huge rush of love and comfort...  Both of them just stood looking into each other’s eyes.   Rosemary found her voice first saying “Johnny nice to meet you, my close friends call me JJ”   John’s stomach did a flip but he wasn’t sure why.


The others in the group had noticed the instant chemistry between Johnny and Rosemary.  Daniel wasn’t sure he wanted his lovely wife to be alone with this young paramedic.

Rosemary explained to her visitors as she gave them a tour of the center about growing up in London at a boarding school and of the stories a friend shared each time she visited about her nephew that suffered from  Asperger’s  and Traumatic Stress Disorder and of her own longing to reach out and comfort a troubled child.   How this same friend guaranteed that the funds for the Center would be at her finger tips when she was ready.

Roy asked, “Why use horses for psychotherapy?”   Rosemary explained…. “One reason is because horses need a lot of care. A client can put aside his or her own troubles in the immediate job of caring for the horse. Horses are large and strong, which challenges a person to overcome his fear in order to work with the animal. Horses mirror moods, too; they respond negatively to negative emotions, teaching the client that his behavior can affect others, and making it necessary to modify behavior in order to work successfully with the animal. Much can be learned from simply observing horse behavior. Horses can be stubborn or defiant, playful or moody. They have a variety of "herd dynamics" such as pushing, kicking, biting, squealing, grooming one another, and grazing together. In the process of describing the horse and the interactions between the horses, clients can learn about themselves and their own family dynamics.

Typical treatment programs for Asperger’s and autism focus on behavior modification and improvement. The complexity of the behaviors is gradually increased in an attempt to help the person continue developing. Medication is sometimes prescribed to people with Asperger’s or autism, but only to control symptoms like hyperactivity or seizures. There's currently no known cure for either disorder.

Research into animal assisted therapy is fairly new. However, even among professionals who believe more research is in order, there's a general consensus that therapy animals can be a highly beneficial addition to treatment programs for children with autism or Asperger’s.

Equine assisted therapy seems to have the best results. The rhythmic motion of riding a horse causes the kids to focus on the movement - which is slow, deliberate, and relaxing. The child indirectly learns how to focus better, which is aided by the calming effect of riding. Some equine therapy ranches have a policy of letting the horse pick the child, rather than "assigning" the child and horse to each other. It's a unique method that has had excellent results. A staff person will lead a child to a horse, and watch for the horse's reaction. If the horse dips his head or nuzzles the child, it's an indication that a bond is being formed and the child has been "chosen".

Before the group left Rosemary gave Johnny and Roy pamphlets on how to become a volunteer flashing them both her most persuasive smile.   They both thanked her for her time and promised to think seriously about volunteering.


Monday October 23, 1978

As the crew of Station 51s A shift gathered for coffee before roll call they all seemed a bit tense.   The weather for the day included winds as high as high as 60 mph with extremely dry conditions making each say a silent prayer that no one did anything stupid today.

Captain Hank Stanley called the crew for roll call and gave out work assignments for the day.   As Johnny and Roy went about their daily chores, Johnny talked a mile a minute about his trips to the Equine Therapy Center in Agoura.   Roy was glad to see the twinkle back in his young partner’s eyes and the bounce back in his step.   He would never say this to Johnny but he was pretty sure the Center was helping him as much as he was helping them.

The incessant chatter continued until the Station Control Unit came to life for neighboring stations


Brush Fire ……Mandeville Canyon on Mulholland Drive….Time 9:41 am


Emergency Declared… Mandeville Canyon….. Time 10:20 am


Brush Fire…. San Diama…..Time 10:40 am


Brush Fire….  Chino…. near Aerojet General moving for Carbon Canyon…Time 10:59 am


Brush Fire…Agoura …… Time 12:11 p.m.   John tensed the minute he heard Agoura and began to feel an overwhelming since of dread

Level 1 Fire ….Agoura… Time   12:38 pm…  Level 1 means the county's fire management organization takes over. Communication, food, repair, fuel and equipment support services start.   John began to pace at this point

Brush Fire…. Agua Dulce…. Near Palatable…..   Time 12:47 pm


Brush Fire…Glendale…. Time 1:34 pm

The next time the SCU came to life Station 51’s tones went off as well which would begin the start of an afternoon that would have historical impact….

Level  2 Fire….Agoura…. Time out 1:57 pm ….Level 2 means maximum emergency every one available to respond…….

Senior Paramedic Roy DeSoto and his partner Johnny Gage were silent as they sped with Engine 51 to Agoura.  Roy was as worried as John was about the safety of their new friends.




Daniel Hightower and his wife Rosemary had been on high alert all morning after the first report reached them of the impending fire.   They cancelled all programs early that morning due to the excessive winds so they didn’t have to worry about clients being in danger.  The looks between them spoke volumes……”Oh God have we made it this far to lose it all to fire”.   


As Rosemary rushed to put vital papers in the fireproof safe and get things inside their home in order she remembered the one piece of her past that she had, the dream catcher that had Our Princess JRG stitched on it.   She ran to the den and scooped it up along with her cassette of “Lean on Me” and put both in her pocket for safe keeping. 


The sound she heard next sent shivers down her spine…..  Her soft spoken even tempered, husband Daniel was yelling frantically from outside….  ROSEMARY……  NOW….. WE….  HAVE….. TO…… GET…… OUT….. OF...HERE…….





Rosemary’s heart jumped in her throat and she felt as she if she would be sick as she came out of her home and looked toward the 13 ½” acres of their nearest neighbor.    Their neighbor’s ranch was going up in flames.   “OH GOD RANDY I HOPE YOU ARE ON A TV SET TODAY AND NOT AT HOME” escaped from Rosemary’s lips. 

As Rosemary continued to look toward her neighbor’s ranch she noticed Randy’s horses were trying to jump the fence to get to their pasture.   She yelled for Daniel who ran to get a rope.   Rosemary ran toward the fence line.

Just as Rosemary got near the fence and started to reach out to one of Randy’s scared horse’s, the hind legs of the horse came out connecting with her stomach sending her sailing backwards to the ground with a thud. 




The silence in the squad was interrupted by the tones on the radio making both Roy and Johnny jump.


Engine 51….Squad 51….Injured female…Equine Therapy Center…Agoura….. Time out 2:00 pm

Johnny’s heart skipped a beat and Roy look worried.  


When the squad arrived at the Center they saw Daniel down on his knees beside his pretty fair skinned blond hair wife holding her hand with tears streaming down his face...

Roy and Johnny rushed with their equipment to his side with Johnny being the first to find his voice….

“Daniel….. What the hell happened…?” Johnny inquired with an urgent tone in his voice as he saw the firing raging at the neighboring ranch…

Between sobs Daniel managed to let them know that Rosemary had been kicked in the stomach by the hind legs of a scared horse she was trying to help that had jumped from their neighbor ranch to theirs at the fence line….

After a quick assessment, Roy and Johnny determined their friend Rosemary probably had a concussion and massive internal bleeding from what appeared to be a ruptured spleen. 

Rampart had the paramedics start IVs and do a red cap for immediate type and cross match. Her vitals showed a blood transfusion was going to be needed as soon as possible if she was going to survive. 

The ambulance arrived at the Center….  Rosemary was loaded in the back and Johnny jumped in behind her.   Roy patted the ambulance door twice and advised Daniel he could ride in the squad with him to the hospital.

The radio continued to crackle as the ambulance raced with Johnny and Rosemary aboard toward Rampart. 

Agoura-Malibu Fire….has reach the sea    Time 2:30 pm

Brush Fire …. North of Sierra Madre heading up the San Gabriel Mountain… Time 3:02 PM




             http://www.imcdb.org/i333081.jpg     http://fire.lacounty.gov/AirWildland/Photos/FireCampsBrushFireResponse1.jpg


Johnny continued to monitor his very special patient.   The ambulance rocked as it sped toward Rampart.   Rosemary’s head was pounding.  She wanted to scream and make it all stop.

Johnny could see she was coming around and getting agitated.   With her concussion he knew from experience if she didn’t calm down she was going to be emptying the contents of her stomach which would be unbearable pain based on the bruise that he noticed had formed on her stomach and side where the horse had made contact.

Johnny started to say, Help me out here… please, but as he began to speak the ambulance hit a bump and it startled and shook him so it sounded like he said, “ hep me peezz…”

Rosemary’s eyes shot open she grabbed the young paramedic and pulled him in toward her as lioness drawing in her cub to protect it.

Johnny was finally able to get Rosemary’s grip to loosen enough that he could sit up a little.  He suddenly felt the overwhelming need to stroke her hair…  

She started to become restless again so he held her hand and stroked her hair all the while saying JJ   JJ     hoping it might soothe her.

Rosemary settled under the touch of her young friend but the young paramedic knew Rosemary’s fight had just begun…..her BP was down to 85/40….. Pulse was weak and thready…Respirations were labored.   She needed blood immediately



John Gage held up the IV bags and raced along with the gurney into to Treatment Room 4 where Dr.  Kelly Brackett and Dixie McCall had things ready for treatment to begin.


Dr. Brackett was concerned and asked station 51’s junior paramedic if he had the red top.   Johnny pulled it from his jacket pocket and Kel ask Dixie to get it to the lab stat…

In the doctor’s lounge, station 51s senior paramedic flipped the handy talkie nervously as he watched the young man in front of him pass back and forth…

A few minutes later, the door to the lounge opened and in walked the young man’s aunt, Dr. Margaret Hightower.

Daniel stopped passing long enough to tell his aunt what had happened.   She assured her upset nephew that Kelly Brackett was the best in the business...




The silver haired Dr. Joy  Early was checking all of Rosemary Hightower’s neurological functions and after a through exam  he advised….”Kel the concussion seems mild but I’m worried that if we don’t get her to O R soon and get the spleen repaired and get some blood into this beautiful young lady, she was not going to make it.


The ring of the phone in the treatment room made the all jump.  “Treatment Room 4….Nurse McCall speaking”… Dix said as she answered……”I see….”   “Hurry”…..”This girl can’t wait much longer”….. 

She has an anti-body….” Dixie reported…. “They are checking our blood supplies now for a match….”

“Have them get some O-neg up here on standby just in case her hemoglobin starts to drop …. But tell them to get the cross done ASAP….” Dr. Brackett ordered…….


If an antibody is suspected, potential donor units must first be screened for the corresponding antigen by phenotyping them. Antigen negative units are then tested against the patient plasma using an antiglobulin/indirect crossmatch technique at 37 degrees Celsius to enhance reactivity and make the test easier to read.  In an emergency, however, type O negative red blood cells may be given to anyone — especially if the situation is life-threatening or the matching blood type is in short supply.

The noise and pounding was once again invading, Rosemary’s head but the pain in her side and stomach was unbearable… She wanted desperately to lift her right arm up.    She always slept on her back with her right arm lying across her forehead looping down across one eye….. It was another one of those little things that made her feel safe and comfortable.    Nurse McCall noticed the movement and went to comfort their young patient.





Dr. Mike Morton rushed in the door in green surgical scrubs…..”KEL….” he said with just a bit too much emphasis…


“The cross is done; you are never going to guess who has the exact same blood type.....”  ….”JOHN GAGE…”


John had taken up pacing in the doctor’s lounge with Daniel.   Roy and Dr. Margaret Hightower were both getting tired watching the two of them.    They all jumped when Dr.  Brackett burst in the door handing Rosemary’s jacket and other personal effects to her husband Daniel.


“Kel...” his friend Margaret urged….”what’s taking so long…?” 


Dr. Brackett explained about the antibody and then stunned everyone by asking Johnny if had any idea why Rosemary Hightower had his exact blood type down to the very rare anti-body.   Johnny had almost died the first time he needed blood because of the delay.  Rampart always keeps his rare type on hand since he seems to be a magnetic for injuries. 



Paramedic John Gage looked back at Dr. Brackett with a stunned look on his face and shook his head, confirming he had no idea why….


Dr.  Kelly Brackett excused himself and advised they would have to discuss this later.  Rosemary was being taken to surgery to remove her spleen and get the internal bleeding stopped….and he needed to get scrubbed up….


Dr.  Margaret Hightower broke the silence as she turned to her nephew…”Daniel…” she began… “We better call the boarding school where Rosemary grew up and get her medical records….”


Daniel started to stand up and the contents in the jacket pocket fell to the floor.   John reached down and grabbed the cassette taking in the title…”Lean on Me” and he placed the cassette in his jacket pocket.

His next move made Roy jump to his feet….  His young partner stopped and jumped back as though what was on the floor was a rattlesnake and he had just been bitten…


The look on Johnny’s face even drew concern from Dr.  Hightower.   She watched as the blood drained from his face and her young client started to sway.   Had Roy not moved when he did Johnny would have bounced his head on the tile floor instead Roy was able to slowing go with him down to the floor.

“Johnny…”    “Johnny….” …..”Please open your eyes…”   …”talk to me Junior…” 


“R  r  r o y….” his young partner stuttered….w h h a  hapn…ed…”




Roy’s young friend had been taken to a treatment room and was now awake and sitting up with a perplexed looked etched on his face...


‘What happened… back there, Junior”…., his best friend inquired.


He didn’t get a chance to answer.  Dr. Hightower and her nephew had joined Roy and John in the treatment room.


Dr. Hightower asked John if he was okay…. He nodded slowly…


She went on to explain that Daniel had gotten hold of the boarding school in London.    They didn’t have a lot of information in her file.   The person on the other end of the phone advised Daniel records show Rosemary Smith had come to them at a very early age.   The information showed her race as mixed.   Her fathers being white her mother being Indian.    The emergency contact is The Hughes Foundation in Santa Barbara, CA and that she was born in Montana on August 28…………….

Dr. Hightower never go the year out she once again saw the blood draining from Johnny’s face but this time he didn’t pass out.    He jumped off the exam table instead, flung open the door and raced down the hallway…..




“JOHN STOP…..”   Roy demanded as he caught up to his young friend...


“Talk to me…”  Roy urged….


Johnny twisted his thin frame out of Roy’s grasp and continued onto the phone...




Station 51s Junior Paramedic felt like his head was spinning he had to get in touch with Edward Devane.    Mr.  Devane was a man servant and had worked for John’s aunt and her husband.


Edward knew this call would come one day he just wasn’t sure when.   He knew it would be sooner now than later since his good friend Mrs. Rosemary Gage-Hughes young ward from London and came to California to build an Equine Therapy Center.





Roy DeSoto’s wife Joanne had brought her husband and his partner street clothes so they could get out of their uniforms. 

As Joanne started to leave with their uniforms and the handy talkie that she agreed to drop by the station, the HT crackled and broke the tension that filled the doctor’s lounge at Rampart General Hospital reminding them all at what had started all the events that were taking place...

 23,000 acres are aflame…. Time 10:30 pm    This announcement made the 2 firefighters shudder knowing their “brothers” were in for a nightmare that night and they weren’t the only ones………      

John Gage’s normally kind eyes hardened and Roy’s mouth opened in utter surprise as the two of them listened to Edward Devane speak.

Edward Devane often assisted the wife of his employer, John Gage’s Aunt Rosemary with delicate matters.  Right before she left the country she gave Edward two birth certificates, an Indian dream catcher with stitching that said Our Prince JRG that hung on the wall in Johnny’s room at her home, and 5 photos...  One photo was a newly born set of fraternal twins, a light skinned girl that appeared near normal sized and a very small little boy that showed features of his Native American descent…. The next photo showed the twins sleeping each with an arm lifted up to their head as if that was the only way to be comfortable, the next a photo showing two bright eyed little ones both flashing smiles that would make you want you do anything for them..  The next was the photo Rosemary insisted the John sit still for when he came to visit  right before she went out of the country.  The final photo had a name written on it that said Johnna Rosemary Gage “JJ” The face smiling back from the photo was Rosemary Hightower.



“Why….. “Why”….. Johnny cried with tears spilling from is dark lashes down his cheeks onto the table he was sitting at.


I I I  h  h aaave a twin sister…?  He questioned not believing what he was hearing.


Edward Devane tried his best to fill in the blanks for the young man that he had come so close to when he had moved in with his Aunt Rosemary who was the sister of John’s father Roderick Gage. 

 Roderick Gage and his Native American wife Red Moon, Kate was her English name, were blessed with an early arrival of their two little angels.   The very small boy was named John Roderick Gage and the little girl was Johnna Rosemary Gage.

Roderick tried taking his wife and 2 children to his parents since he was going to be away often. They turned their son away because he had run off and married a penniless Indian.

He knew his sister Rosemary Gage – Hughes would help but right now she was busy assisting her husband setting up a boarding school in London as one of the programs ran by the Hughes Foundation. 

That left Red Moon’s family and a trip to the Indian Reservation at Lame Deer, Montana.   Being near her sister’s husband George again made her shudder.  He had hurt her in the past and she feared for her beautiful little girl.

It didn’t take long before George made an attempt to hurt Johnna.  Luckily Red Moon’s father came in time and her small little twin did his best to console her.  He was having a hard time learning to talk because of a stutter and other issues that seemed to be happening.  Instead of saying Johnna he normally only got out JJ JJ as he stroked his twin’s hair with his little hand.  He himself was always soothed when his father would smooth his hair from his forehead.

Katie made the agonizing decision to let her husband’s sister Rosemary Gage-Hughes take her precious little girl away since she didn’t fit in her Native American world because her features were English.  John, sweet tiny Johnny at least had Native American features.  After that Katie cried and cried.     Losing a baby was hurt ache enough she then lost her love and soul mate when Johnny was 8 years old.   She then learned that her sister’s husband was just trying to get rid of Johnna he wanted Johnny.   She vowed not to lose another child but got cancer and died right before Johnny turned twelve.

Johnna had been taken by Rosemary to London to the boarding school with the only link to her past being a handmade dream catcher with stitching that read Our Princess JRG.  Rosemary feared the name Johnna might cause the young girl problems so she listed her name as Rosemary Smith and vowed she would keep an eye on this child and do her best to one day bring her back together with her twin.








The radios on the fire department frequency came alive as an exhausted Dr. Kelly Brackett made his final notes about the surgery he and Dr. Joe Early had just completed on Rosemary Hightower or should he call her Johnna Rosemary Gage Hightower.   Word of what had come to light in the wee hours of the morning had made its way to him via his head ER nurse Dixie McCall.

700 men are on the scene, and the northern boundary, just south of the Ventura is contained… Time 6:00 am


A weary Dr. Kelly Brackett had showered quickly and was now in the doctor’s lounge to speak with the family of the young girl that kept him up all night while he tried raced to close off all the bleeders that had been caused by a bucking horse scared by what was now being called the Agoura-Malibu Firestorm.

Rosemary spleen had to be removed and it will probably take a minimum of 4 pints of blood to even get her hemoglobin to bare minimum level.   Her lung collapsed during the operation and required a chest tube to re-inflate it.  Her heart seem to beat in the oddest rhythm up until Dixie McCall had stepped in and stroked her hair as she confirmed their earlier suspicions were correct. 

This lovely young girl was not only related to their highly admired junior paramedic she was in fact his twin sister.



Dr. Brackett had gone home for a few hours for some much needed sleep but was back to check the patient that kept him up all night.   He heard the TV in the room next say… 


This is our 3:00 pm update….. Winds have diminished to 5 – 10 mph and 80% containment is reached, with boundaries at Zuma Beach to the south and Ventura County line on the west, the freeway at the north, and the west side of Mali by Lake on the east.  Fog is starting roll in off the coast, and the temperature is dropping drastically….


Reports from Agoura confirm the 13 ½ acre ranch belonging to actor Randolph Mantooth known for his appearances in McCloud, Marcus Welby MD and Adam 12 was completely destroyed.  Mr. Mantooth’s neighbor, Rosemary Hightower, operator of the newly opened Equine Therapy Center and wife of retired champion rodeo rider Daniel Hightower, was injured trying to rescue a scared horse from Mr. Mantooth’s ranch.  Mrs. Hightower was taken to Rampart General Hospital.   Updates on her condition were not available for this broadcast….


As he entered his patient’s room…the scene made him smile… his surgery patient was laying in bed with the rails down on both sides.   On the right, her husband, Daniel Hightower, was leaning his head on her shoulder.   On her left, her fraternal twin brother John Gage was leaning his head on the other shoulder.   Next to Johnny was his best friend and partner, Roy DeSoto with his head leaning against Johnny.     His patient, Johnna Rosemary Gage Hightower, had one hand holding her husband’s.   The other hand was going back and forth between the two paramedics smoothing the hair from their foreheads.   In the background, the words of a song floated toward him…..          






Lean On Me”


Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you're not strong
                                 And I'll be your friend                                                                                          
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on…………


Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won't let show

You just call on me brother, when you need a hand 
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you'd understand
We all need somebody to lean on

If there is a load you have to bear
That you can't carry
I'm right up the road
I'll share your load
If you just call me

Call me (if you need a friend)
Call me (call me)
Call me (if you need a friend)
Call me (if you ever need a friend)
Call me (call me)Call me
Call me (if you need A friend)






60 MPH winds and extremely dry conditions fueled the “Agoura-Malibu Firestorm” and the “Mandeville Canyon Fire” that began at approx 9:41 am on Monday October 23, 1978 burning 38,000 acres before being declared contained at 7:00 am Wednesday October, 25 1978 and under control  on Friday October 27, 1978.  

A fifteen year old boy from Agoura was arrested for starting the fire, and sentenced to be confined in the California Youth Authority until his 21st birthday.   Arson investigators determined that he used a lit cigarette wrapped in a matchbook to set the fire that burned for four days.  230 homes were destroyed in Agoura and Malibu.  In Mandeville 254 structures were destroyed.  Damages throughout the area were estimated at 71.4 million.   Three people were killed and 50 injured.  


The use of photos of Equine Therapy and of the smiling cowboy and  babies were done only to bring the characters in this fictional story to life.  No harm was intended.

Any errors in medical information, Equine Therapy, or facts surrounding the 1978 Agoura-Malibu Firestorm are mine.



Posted to Site 11/03/12

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