BY: Jake Cosmos 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.
To be continued…