Disease and disaster are never easy to overcome. Invariably, we lose something of ourselves.
In 1912, this was driven home when a strange illness afflicted residents of Elm Street and only Elm Street. Seven people came down with the disease. Rather, seven young men between the ages of 18 and 23.
The young men lived in a pair of boarding houses, each across the street from the other. On Saturday, the men woke up, prepared to go to work, and ate their morning meals. They were, by all accounts, hale and hearty at seven in the morning. By 7:30, all were struck low, screaming and clawing at their faces.
Of the seven men, only one of them, Alexander Keel, survived the experience. While his unfortunate co-victims died screaming in agony, Alexander took the drastic step of cutting his entire face off.
Surprisingly, he survived the massive shock to his system through the valiant efforts of the local Red Cross and a pair of doctors who had learned their trade fighting the Indian Wars. Eventually, when he was well enough to communicate again, Alexander was asked why he had mutilated himself.
His answer was simple and to the point.
“Better alive mutilated than dead and whole.”
I would have to agree.
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