Heartfelt thanks all round and that vital red button

ALL I did was press the red button. Like the nurse had told me to do, were they needed pronto. But Mr Kinney insists I saved his life. If anyone did that, it was our mutual friend Sameur, who I d happened to call that November morning to ask the loan of a

ALL I did was press the red button. Like the nurse had told me to do, were they needed pronto.

But Mr Kinney insists I saved his life.

If anyone did that, it was our mutual friend Sameur, who I'd happened to call that November morning to ask the loan of a car the next day. He has three, so it's rarely a problem.

For once, Sameur sought a return favour.


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Could I spend the morning in the private clinic where his American pal Mr Kinney lay, following a by-pass job four days earlier?

Sameur's English wife, Lyn, would take over soon after noon.

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Meanwhile, Sam was anxious to have somebody beside who spoke the same lingo, should Mr Kinney want anything.

Mr Kinney was comfortably asleep when I got there, so I parked myself in his room, trying not to rustle my newspaper too much.

I was equally careful not to slurp the coffee a cheerful nurse brought me.

Sameur had told me the Yank, surprise, surprise, was in the oil business. What their connection was I could only guess. Sam has a cement company, a hotel and various properties, besides his three jam-jars.

On which latter score, I thought smugly to myself as I sat there, Sam would lend me the Megane - that year's model - for obliging him with keeping a somnolent Mr Kinney company for a few hours.

The room was well equipped, but there was no small screen beeping away as it monitored Mr Kinney's rewired ticker.

Not a surprise because, four days post op back in 1992, I did not have one such linked to me.

Save for Mr Kinney's regular breathing and the air-conditioning's low hum, all was quiet.

My International New York Herald Trib' was full of US election hoo-hah.

Its English football coverage had the byline of a national scribe I'd frequently rubbed an amiable shoulder with back in the days.

I was musing he must be my age, if not more, and still writing with informed eloquence, when Mr Kinney began gasping.

He was flushed and sort of vibrating. Red button, quick!

Jabbing hard down on it, I absurdly had a brief flashback to doing the same in the RAF decades ago.

That time the "fire in the wing store" yell was a false alarm. But there was nothing false about Mr Kinney's condition.

Where the heck was the help? Rushing out into the corridor I was brushed aside by a stampede of medics.

Mob-handed, they hurtled into Mr Kinney's room, came out even faster with him in his bed and sped off, vanishing as they did a Lewis Hamilton cornering.

Sameur was there in minutes. A big man of some presence, he found out internal bleeding was being dealt with in an operating theatre. We soberly thanked respective deities for Sam's bedside vigil forethought.

I later learned that was 24/7 from day one.

Only by chance had I got involved that morning.

A domestic emergency forced a last-moment cry-off by Lyn, and there was no other immediate sub - until my appearance.

Despite Lyn and their two young girls, who speak fluent English, Sam's own isn't hot, but he got across to me the crisis was why he'd organised a clock-round watch.

Sam nodded with satisfaction when shown the vital red button. Seconds can count, was what he wanted to say.

Lyn arrived by the time the flap was over and Mr Kinney was back in his room again.

The surgeon told us Mr Kinney was at real risk, happily averted by prompt action sparked by the red button.

"You saved Mr Kinney's life," boomed Sameur, stooping to plant a bristly kiss on both of my cheeks.

Mr Kinney, who I know now as Hank buddy, nurtures the same idea. He was fit enough two weeks later to fly home to convalesce - three flights in all, no less.

Hank was back that Easter, full of vigour, and Sameur laid on a celebration do for us all at the town's best restaurant.

In his "speech", Hank said our countries' noted special relationship allowed him to kiss me on both cheeks a la local custom. He did so to raising cheers. We added to the fun by bare-chesting scar comparisons.

All's well, etcetera.

Hank's scare, however, wasn't needed for me to count my own blessings.

I've done that first thing every morning for 17-plus years now.

Madam is admirably patient with my "let's hear it for Bart's!" whoops.

But then, we both know just how literally heartfelt they are.

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