Lookout

updated 04/19/1982 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/19/1982 01:00AM

Karen Hall, 25, met Alan Alda just before her senior year in college. Today, less than five years later, Karen is writing M*A*S*H scripts for the actor (with her, at right, on the set) and working as a story editor on the Emmy-winning series. Hall has been in a hurry since she was born in the back seat of the family car on the way to the hospital in Chatham, Va. At age 6, she blocked out her first plot—about a horse. After her junior year at Virginia's College of William and Mary, she took a seminar trip to Hollywood. Alda critiqued a play she'd written, and Karen decided to make drama her life. In 1979 she bid goodbye to her father, who works at a business-forms company, and her sales-clerk mother and went to L.A. with $800 in savings and seven Taxi scripts she'd done on spec. Soon discouraged, she called home ready to give up, but was told by her mom to stay "until I was sure it wasn't going to work out." Karen subsisted on odd jobs for a year. It was "the worst," she recalls. "But every time I get really miserable I write something good." She eventually won a $1,900-a-week job writing for Eight Is Enough. She remembers going to shop for cheap beef and suddenly thinking, "Hell, I could buy every steak here." Now she could almost buy the store on her M*A*S* Hearnings. "I used to feel guilty about getting so much money," she says, "but now I work so hard I don't feel guilty at all."

Dr. William Brock, 28, suffered three leg fractures by age 2, before physicians realized he was a victim of osteogenesis imperfecta, a rare, often hereditary affliction also known as "brittle-bone disease." The Pittsburgh-born son of an auto salesman and a housewife, neither of whom had O.I., Brock was in junior high when his tally of fractures reached 70. That did not count mere hand and finger cracks, which his dad treated with Popsicle sticks and tape. Once young Bill shattered both legs playing Ping-Pong—and had to spend four years in a wheelchair. Today he stands 5'2" and has four steel rods implanted in key bones and a left leg and arm that are shorter than the right. Yet Bill hasn't let O.I. break his spirit. A resident internist at Pittsburgh's Montefiore Hospital, he has set up the Children's Research Foundation for Osteogenesis Imperfecta. It aims to raise $100,000 its first year to support study of the still-mysterious disease that afflicts perhaps 100,000 U.S. children. Brock hasn't broken a bone in two years, possibly because he does 400 sit-ups a day to increase his strength. Separated from his dental student wife since 1980, he opted for a vasectomy rather than take the 50-50 chance of passing on the disease. "An O.I. child is a high-maintenance child," explains Brock, at left with O.I. poster girl Jamie Saffa. "As a physician, I may not have that kind of time."

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