Cheating Death Updates
The Acadamy of Hearts and Mind will publish three of my poems in their next issue. The poems are ” Lost Illusions Stripped Away,” “7th Extinction Event”, and “the Last Bee Ends Humanity’s Reign”. They also published “Cheating Death 22 Times.” Cheating Death Updates include audio clips.
Cheating Death Updates – here they are
Lost Illusions Stripped Away
Illusions stripped away
I look at myself
63 years old
In reasonable health
Living with my wife
Retired living overseas
Writing a blog
Getting poetry and short stories published
And don’t understand
Why I can’t be happy
Political news infuriates me
And causes stress
Perhaps it is time to just let go
Don’t worry about things
That I can not control
Be content with what I have
Help manage our real estate
Write in my blog
Be more positive
And reflect on what I have
7th Extinction Event
With the collapse of the humble bee
The 6th extinction event continued unabated
As climate change begins to unravel
Extreme weather becomes the norm
Commercial agriculture fails
Water and electric systems fail
Urban areas are abandoned
The rich retreat to underground caves
And take with them workers
Who become slave labor
But happy to be alive
As the 6th extinction
Morphs into the 7th
And final extinction event
The fall of humanity
Looms over the planet
With the collapse of urban civilization
Climate change slows down
But a new ice age
Starts in earnest
Natures ultimate revenge
Last Bee Ends Humanity’s Reign
The end of humanity’s reign
Of supremacy on earth
Came about with the death
Of the last bee on earth
Scientists had been warning the world
For a number of years
Of the dire consequences of the collapse
Of the insect world
Especially the humble bee
That played such a vital role
In keeping many plants alive
The bees were eaten by birds
And the birds were eaten
By other animals
Without the work of the humble bee
Commercial agriculture collapsed
Causing widespread famine
Across the world
Scientists rushed to the rescue
Deploying robot bees
An GMO bees
But to no avail
The fix was in
And humanity’s goose
Was cooked so to speak
And with the collapse of agriculture
Came the collapse of urban civilization
And the end of urban civilization
Led to billions of people
Facing starvation in the ruined cities
Some rich people bounded together
And build vast underground cities
Where they continued the experiment
Of robot bees and GMO bees
But nothing worked
And humanity’s long descend
Towards extinction began
It all happened within a few years
One day everything was normal
Scandals, wars, threat of wars
Endless infotainment news
Three years latter
50 million rich people
Were living in caves
Along with 150 million slaves
The end of humanity
Caused the rests of the world
To gradually recover
The bees were never consulted
They had no role to play
Just the humble workers
Who had fed the world
But they were no more
Other ways to survive
And the world went on
Without the human overlords
Who remained huddled in their caves
Dreaming of one day
Returning to reclaim the world
Just as the bible proclaimed
they also published last year my personal essay, “Cheating Death Twenty Times” reprinted below
Cheating Death Updates: Cheating Death Twenty Two Times
MIND ESSAYS, NON-FICTION
“Cheating Death 20 Times
By Jake Aller
In my 62 trips around the sun, I cheated death 20 times. These are the true stories. If I ever meet the grim reaper I’d like to ask him why he spared me all these times.
Five Childhood Illnesses Hit me at age Six
I was a preemie. Born two months early. They had just developed oxygen tents for preemies and I was one of the first babies they saved using that technology, so in a way even being born meant that I had cheated death. The doctors thought that I would develop severe medical conditions. They were right; I have had bad eyes, bad teeth, and a residual learning disability from birth. And I had a weak immune system to boot. When I was six years old, I missed almost all the first grade and had to repeat the first grade because I developed all the childhood illnesses at once. I had whooping cough, pneumonia, the flu, German measles, and regular measles, chicken pox, and mono all in that year. And hay fever to boot. for me once I recovered I was in good health for years except for seasonal allergies in the fall and spring.
Typhoid Fever Almost Kills Me in Korea
I graduated from high school and college and mostly was healthy, no major issues other than colds, the flu, and seasonal allergies. While I was in the Peace Corps training, we did a hike in the mountains in the East Coast of Korea. We stopped to drink water from a stream. I developed severe diarrhea and a fever. I was rushed to the local hospital and transferred to a hospital in Seoul. I had developed Typhoid fever, one of the last such cases in Korea as the Koreans had largely eliminated the threat of Typhoid Fever given the overall improvement in the country’s infrastructure. The doctors at first could not figure it out, but in the end, they figured it out. I spent four weeks in the hospital missing a lot of my crucial language training. The Peace Corps offered me the opportunity to go home or transfer to another Peace Corps program but opted to finish the training and my service. During the stay in the hospital, I was a celebrity of sorts – the only foreign patient and the nurses and doctors stopped by to practice their English with and I practiced my very rudimentary Korean as I flirted up a storm with the pretty nurses.
Guardian Angel Saves Me in Korea
I have always been a skeptical person, and not much of a believer. I have never been a Christian. I have always been an agnostic or even an atheist. But one day many years ago I experienced an event that changed my perspective on life. Since that time, I have become a believer in guardian angels that look after us in this corrupted world of ours. I can’t explain what happened that day, other than to realize that there are stranger things in life than we can imagine and that someone or something was looking out for me that day.
In 1990, I was living in South Korea teaching ESL for a Korean University and government, and Asian studies for the University of Maryland for military forces stationed in Korea. I was living in Seoul with my spouse who was a U.S. army officer, newly assigned to Korea. She was born in Korea and was, in fact, the first Korean American female officer to be assigned to Korea. We had been married for about six years having met in 1982 and had a whirlwind romance, marrying two months after we met. That is the subject of another story though.
One spring day we took a trip to the east coast of Korea. It was about a five to six-hour journey by car. My wife was driving because I did not drive due to bad vision and because I was afraid to drive in the chaotic driving environment in South Korea. We left Seoul about 11 am and by 3 pm we were halfway to our destination, Soraksan which is the number one mountain park in South Korea. It was a fine Spring day, just perfect weather, and we were both looking forward to taking a few days off.
Just outside of the town of Wongju, the freeway backed up and there was heavy traffic ahead of us. I saw a sign for the Wongaksan National Park which I had never visited before and I told Angela, let’s get off the freeway and check it out. I felt something telling me we had to exit the freeway that moment. I had a premonition that something bad was coming down the freeway and we were heading right into it.
We never forgot that day. And to this day almost thirty years later I often think back what would have happened if I had ignored that warning in my head and had insisted that we keep going to what would have been our death.
Almost Hit by a Train in Korea
While in my first tour in Seoul, Korea I joined the Hash House Harriers. The hash was an international drinking club with a running problem as they put it. The Hash started in colonial Malaysia and spread around the world. Mostly expat Americans and British. The runs ended with beer drinking, ritual punishments and British style jokes and bawdy not safe for work and not politically correct humor. I thought it was a lot of fun, but it was certainly not for everyone.
One day we did a run down by the train tracks. I was running along listening to music and did not hear the train approaching. I jumped off at the last moment barely avoiding being killed by the train.
Afterwards, I said that I had cheated death yet again, not knowing that my real experience cheating death was waiting for me a few years down the road.
Mutant Drug Resistance Staph Infection and 14 Operations Almost Kills Me
The event that changed my life was a simple decision. One morning I decided to go for a jog. It was dark outside and I thought that I knew the path. I made a strategic miscalculation and fell down a five-foot gap in the bushes where I thought was a series of steps.
I shattered my heel in a million pieces. I made it back to my room, called 9-11 after an hour when I realized my foot was broken. I called my wife as well. I was a foreign service officer newly returned to DC for my first assignment in DC after working five years overseas in Korea and Thailand. She was an army officer stationed in Ft Sam Houston, San Antonio Texas.
The ER doctor bandaged me up and told me that I needed surgery and after surgery would be bedridden for at least four months. We opted to do the surgery in Texas and we arranged for me to fly using a wheelchair assistance. By the time I arrived the swelling was so bad that we had to wait a week to do the surgery.
The Air Force doctors wanted to try an experimental procedure using shark cartilage as a replacement bone material. A few days after the surgery I developed a fever and went back to the hospital and they discovered I had a staph infection. They treated me with IV antibiotics and opened the wound area and cleaned it out and replaced the cartridge. Then sent me home to recover. I had to take antibiotics for four months.
I went back to her house. She got me an internet account and I learned how to surf the net and read a lot of stuff online. I could not stand watching daytime TV. We did not have cable service. We rented a movie nightly and I watched movies every day and surfed the net and read some books she bought me as well.
Her dog, Jason, was a cute dachshund that was bilingual – Korean and English. He became my best friend for the four months I was out of commission. I called my office once a week to check in.
Once I returned to DC, I stayed there for almost a month and commuted by crutches. I was amazed at how cruel drivers were. Many people cursed me for holding up traffic as I could not walk across the street with the green light which seemed to be timed to allow for only Olympic 50-year dashers to get across the street in the allocated time. Then on the metro not once during the couple of weeks I commuted by metro was I offered a seat once during the entire time and I often had to stand on my crutches the entire trip. and several times people rushed by me yelling at me to get out of the way on the subway stairs.
I went one day to the old Walter Reed Army military hospital in DC for a routine check up on a different issue – a cist on my arm that I wanted to be removed. The doctor noticed that I was running a fever, quickly realized that the infection had returned, and I was back into surgery the next day.
My wife came out that weekend to see me in the hospital. I ended up having 12 more operations as the staph infection had become MDR. I had an IV inserted in my stomach and went through intensive vancomycin the nuclear bomb of antibiotics for four months. The final operation was a bone graft from my hip after they finally realized that the shark cartridge would not work.
My wife had to argue with the military doctors to allow me to stay in the hospital for an additional month. They wanted me to stay on the IV antibiotics, but I had to report in twice a day for blood work. She pointed out that I would be home alone and could not drive to the hospital but would have to go back and forth by metro and bus. Two hours each way. So, I stayed on until June.
I stayed sane by reading a book a day. During that year I read almost 300 books and started a daily journal. This was pre-internet and there was no wi-fi in the hospital, so I was on the State Department’s email distribution and personal email during the entire time I was there, and it was also pre-Face Book days. I went to the hospital library every day and got another book. The doctors were amused as every morning I had another book to read. I also watched lots of TV becoming hooked on the X files. I watched it frequently with the elderly black night janitor who was a big fan. He was also a conspiracy nut. He introduced me to the “reptilian overlords” conspiracy theory and speculated over who might secretly be a “reptilian overlord.”
My fellow patients were all army troops – everyone called me major as they could just not comprehend that my wife was the major and not me. One of my fellow patients was recovering from an accident and had gangrene and was facing amputation and a divorce.
Another soldier was back in the army. He and his wife had inherited half million dollars and left the military and spend two years enjoying the high life and blew through almost all the money, so he went back into the military then had an accident and was recovering from a broken leg as well. This was the 90’s so there were few military injuries, most of the patients were there for me due to a freak accident that broke their legs, arms, or back.
My best friend who was an actor in town for a season visited almost every day. My wife came for most of the surgery and many friends who had heard where I came for a visit. But I was cut off as this just before everyone got email and there was no internet in the hospital. Finally, I was released as Angela got assigned back to DC.
I went back to work. And things were going okay. I returned to work and my life. The fibromyalgia was a chronic condition but when I went to India and discovered yoga it became manageable. The arthritis was chronic, but I eventually quit taking anti-inflammatory drugs and learned to just deal with the pain. Every four months I must see a foot doctor to debride calluses that build up. Then in 2007 almost ten years after the accident I developed hammer toes and had to have four operations to smash my feet back into shape. Ten years after the operation I was faced with chronic pain due to the fibromyalgia and arthritis and some limited mobility but was recovering enough to resume daily walks.
1996-1997 was my personal year of hell. The year in the hospital changed my life. Afterwards, I felt that I had been given a new lease on life, almost as if I was given bonus games in the great video game of life. And despite my constant pain, I was just happy to be alive, and to still be married and to still have a high-powered job. I had read 300 books in one year. I started keeping track of my reading and movies and never came close to that record.
Guardian Angel Saves Me in Texas
While I was in Texas recovering from my extended illness, I had an incident like the guardian angel incident in South Korea. I had gone to Texas to recover from the accident and the first two operations. I wanted to go back to work. In retrospect, I should have asked for a few more weeks to recover. It was December and San Antonio where my wife was based was experiencing rare winter weather. The roads were covered with ice and commercial flights were closed but the military was still flying, and we had booked passage on a medevac flight.
While driving to the airport, Angela and I started talking about the weather and she had just explained to me what to do if we encountered black ice and boom we encountered black ice and she instantly reacted appropriately because we had just discussed it. Something had told us to expect ice on the road. We totaled the car but walked away unhurt. I went back a few days later but in retrospect should have stayed behind for a few more weeks. They might have caught the staph infection before it spread out of control.
Weird Parasite Could Have Killed Me
After enduring 14 operations and nine months in the hospital, I had developed intense chronic pain and after going to many different doctors was diagnosed with fibromyalgia as well as arthritis due to the operation. I also developed a frozen shoulder syndrome and had to have a steroid shot. While I was in the hospital undergoing the 14 operations, the internal medicine doctor told me that there was some other infection going on. He eventually found out that I had a rare parasite that I had picked up in Thailand. He had asked me whether I had spent time in Southeast Asia. I told him that I had indeed spent time in Thailand. He said,
“Well, I know what is causing the symptoms.”
While I was in Thailand, I had fallen into a canal during a Hash House harrier run. This parasite was benign, but I should take some medicine to get rid of it. If I ever had a steroid shot for any reason, the parasite would expand to the size of a basketball and then kill me within one hour of taking the steroid. I noted this in my journal and commented that this might be proof that God if he existed, had a morbid sense of humor for if he created the universe what was the point of creating this parasite? Fortunately for me, due to the persistence of that doctor, they discovered the parasite before I had the steroid shot.
Ending up in ER due to Mutiny among my stomach flora
One day in the fall, when Angela my wife who was on a business trip to Korea, I developed strange symptoms. I could not eat or drink anything, but my stomach blew up as if I were pregnant. I called a taxi and made it to the nearest military base ER at Ft Belvoir. I was admitted to the ER and spent two weeks there recovering from an acute GI tract infection. Apparently, the nine months of antibiotic treatment had so disturbed my internal microflora that bad bacteria had killed off the good bacteria. They told me that was a side effect of taking IV antibiotics like vancomycin and that doctors, in general, don’t do a good enough job of monitoring people after being discharged after extended anti-biotic usage. Someone should have warned me that this could have happened. In any event, the doctors said that I had waited more than an hour I would have been dead.
Dengue Fever in Barbados
My last serious illness occurred almost eight years ago. I was stationed in Barbados and my wife had just retired from the U.S. Army and had joined me. Her niece was also staying with us for a while. One day we went to tour a famous gully. We got there late in the day and there were mosquitos there. We were not too worried as malaria and zika virus were very rare in Barbados as was Dengue. What were the odds that we both would get one of the few cases of Dengue fever in Barbados that year? Well we both came down with it and my niece had to take care of us for a few weeks as we recovered. Everyone at the Embassy was afraid that we had gotten SARS which was the epidemic of concern that year. When we told them we had dengue, everyone just shrugged and told us to take a few weeks off.
I don’t often talk about that year I was in the hospital and 22 times I cheated death, but when I do, I tell people that it changed my life in so many ways and that I was a far better person because of the operations and the year in the hospital. Every day I wake up and feel alive and thankful for that for I felt that I had cheated death at least 14 times that year. People often ask me why I am always so cheerful. My standard answer is that after cheating death 14 times every day is a bonus day and I am determined to make the most of it. The pain is there, and I just must cope with it the best I can without taking drugs for it. I have cheated death at least 22 times in my life. And I remain an optimistic happy go lucky kind of guy. After all, I have been through I know that every moment is precious, and I feel that I am living a bonus round in the video game of life. Still waiting to meet the Grim Reaper and ask him why he allowed me to cheat death so many times.