I was thinking about Resurrection today on Easter Sunday. Also about how time seems to pass quicker and quicker as I get older.
I had meant to Reflect upon my medical crisis back in February at the Kamehameha Schools Ho'olaule'a. To Reflect upon the lessons. To discern the lessons. To share my deep Gratitude for those Angels who helped to save me. To give humble Gratitude for the outpouring of Love and Prayers on Social Media which Truly Saved me yet once again.
I guess today is as good a day to write this out. Like a very public Diary or Journal. Maybe something will resonate within you. A Healing. As I become Healed in writing and sharing this.
My biggest memory of that day, forever etched in my mind, is the image of my son, Elliott's face, in tears, watching me sit there collapsing and shutting down to the World. That is the most painful to remember, more than any physical trauma suffered that day.
I remember sitting for a few hours, in the rising morning Sun, capturing images of the students dancing hula, singing, and performing in all kinds of Beautiful Spirited ways.
I remember starting to feel a sore stomach. Deep pains from deep within my abdomen. I felt like I needed to stand up, and when I stood up, I felt like I needed to lie down. I left and abandoned my camera and bags on the lawn chair as they meant nothing in that moment, and walked away.
I started progressing slowly through the crowd, not knowing where I was going. Sweat started pouring down my forehead and cheeks. I felt nauseated. Weak. I tried to remain calm as I slowly made my way through the thick crowds of people on Konia Field. I could feel my Heart pounding too.
I thought I would try to make it to the restroom at Konia and that would bring me some relief. Deep inside I knew it was something much worse than an upset stomach.
I actually tried to turn myself invisible with each stumbling weak step as my greatest fear was running into someone I knew in the crowd, and then stopping to engage me in greetings, hugs, small talk, anything when I was feeling so weak and on the verge of collapse. I had barely enough energy to keep myself upright, moving forward, with each weak painful step.
I made it to the restroom after struggling to get each leg and foot up a flight of stairs while holding on to the handrail for dear Life. I entered the bathroom and it was full of people. Waiting for stalls, waiting for urinals. I turned and had to lean on the sink to hold me up. I started to feel panicky, like I was going to black-out, as the pain worsened quickly as did the weakness and nausea.
I stumbled out of the bathroom and into the busy crowded hallway, and spotted two chairs right there. A young man grabbed one and pulled it over to his friends while he sat down, and there was the other open one.
I plopped down into it with so much gratitude for that single open chair.
I sat there with my head hanging down. Not enough energy to lift it up. Sweat poured down my head and neck. I felt like I was shutting down. My breathing was labored.
It was the same deep abdominal pain like I had in 2012 while trying to walk home. The same profuse sweating. The same labored breathing. The same feeling of the World slowly closing down from view. The same feeling of imminent Doom. The same fearful ominous feeling that this was it. The end of me.
I was so fearful that it was pancreatitis again. The ailment that put me on Life-support and in a coma in 2012. My doctor's voice resonated in my head, that I couldn't afford to get pancreatitis again, for a third time, as it might prove fatal.
I had already had surgery to scrape off dead and necrotic tissue from my pancreas last time. One surgeon said he wasn't sure if they were going to be able to save my pancreas. I would have to live a Lifetime of taking giant pills with enzymes to digest my food. Even that may not work or last.
I distinctly remember another young doctor, most likely an intern, who came to my room, and said that they just had another patient with serious symptoms like my own, with pancreatitis, there a few weeks ago, before I was admitted to Queen's Hospital. That I would be okay. He then paused, thought awhile, then actually said, "Oh sorry...no he actually died."
I remember my late sister Nalani, who was staying with me and caring for me during that time in the hospital, being so upset and angry that he said that. She wanted to report him. I told her to let it go. I had actually preferred stark brutal truth to sugar coated niceties when you might be saying goodbye to friends and family in a few days.
So here I was again. At Ho'olaule'a. A Celebration. Helpless. Fading fast. I could see people's feet walking back and forth in the hallway. People in line for all types of fun things and food. Here I was quite the spectacle. Sitting there. Quietly dying in a folding chair. So I thought.
Then there came a voice, and a tap on my shoulder. Kumu Keala Kwan. He smiled and greeted me, and after seeing my face as I strained to look up, he immediately asked if I was alright. I said no. He said he would go get the medical tent people to come right away. I was so grateful. He gave me his bottle of water too then took off. I was grateful for his Aloha. I didn't even have the strength to open it or drink it.
I garnered enough strength however, from the hope Kumu Kwan provided me, and dialed Elliott who was helping to make lei po'o, the haku lei, for the Hawaiian Ensemble booth. He answered and I let him know that he needed to come to me. He said he was almost finished with his lei. I sadly told him that he needed to abandon it and come now. I wasn't doing well. He dropped everything.
After about a minute or two, the school medical tent paramedic came and she checked my pulse, and started asking me questions. Elliott arrived too. I looked up at his face. His eyes were full of tears. I felt so guilty that if something happened to me, I would be leaving him alone as it was just the two of us up there that day. That was the worse feeling.
Standing next to him, I saw another parent and Beautiful friend, Kerri Coelho. She had come with Elliott when she heard the news.
That my son had someone with him, someone I could trust, someone who possessed so much Love and Aloha, was a Godsend at that moment. I was humbly Grateful again. I will never forget the look of concern in her face either or welled up tears.
A wheelchair was brought and I was put into it, then pushed down the hallway, down the elevator, and then through the throngs of people across Konia Field. I was still too weak to lift my head up. I watched everyone's feet walking past us. Walking alongside us. Moving out of the way. Young feet. Old feet. I knew I was quite the spectacle.
I had seen people being pushed in wheelchairs through crowds before after medical emergencies. Always feeling sorry for them. And here I was. Weak. Helpless.
I ended up in the medical tent. Laying prone made me feel better. Getting oxygen made me feel better. Blood pressure was low. Firemen came. Then an ambulance. Then me on a gurney, pushed through the main entrance crowds. Staring up at the sky. Peripherally seeing lots of people gawking. Again, quite the spectacle. A dying spectacle too.
After more diagnosis and treatment in the ambulance, I felt better. The EMT's were so caring. However, I didn't want to be taken to the hospital. Elliott has a Driver's Permit, but couldn't drive the car home alone. My wife and other son, Koa, were at home.
My family suffered greatly in 2012 during my hospitalization and were traumatized trying to survive day-to-day through the many months I was incapacitated. Unsure if I would survive while in the ICU and coma. I couldn't repeat that ordeal again. None of us could.
Thankfully, after quite awhile resting in the ambulance, my vitals normalized somewhat and I signed a waiver, so the ambulance released me. Kerri offered to drive Elliott and I home. The Kamehameha Schools security gave us all a ride to our car parked quite far away. I still felt weak and decrepit.
Kerri wanted to take me to the Emergency Room. I stubbornly declined, wanting to believe that one of my three hernia were acting up and it wasn't my pancreas. There were some quite reflective moments in the car ride home. Some tears welling up. Humility. Gratitude.
I thanked Kerri as did my wife who drove her back to campus so she could finish her day with her family and where her car was parked.
After resting at home for five hours, my pain didn't go away, but worsened again. Worried yet once more, I had my wife drop me off at the Emergency Room at Queen's.
They ran some tests and did a CT Scan. The results came back and showed a blockage in my lower intestine. A good portion of my bowel was flattened out after the obstruction. The ER Doctor said they were going to have to admit me to the hospital. Surgeons came by and said that the biggest concern was that I had an obstructed lower bowel which could weaken the bowel itself, causing it to rupture. Then I would be in a critical situation. My white blood cell count was elevated and they were concerned I was starting a blood infection to make an already dire prognosis worse.
I didn't want emergency surgery. I wasn't sure what the outcome would be. I was still waiting for hernia surgery clearance since the end of last year. The situation wasn't looking good at all.
I had lots of blood drawn throughout the night in the ER and other tests as well.
The doctors and nursing team decided to try a nasal-gastric tube down my nose and into my stomach to relieve trapped air, bile, acids, and other conditions that exacerbated the twisted bowel.
Later that night, I had to sit up while the nurses slid a tube down my nose. Painfully inch-by-inch. This tube looked like the tubes I used to pump air into my fish tank when I was a child. Now it was going down my nose and into my stomach while I sat there awake. Torture. Necessary loving torture however. An X-Ray showed it had been successfully placed.
After twenty-four hours of draining, whatever blockage or obstruction was there, abated on its own without the need for invasive abdominal surgery. I was so relived to have the tube taken out. As they pulled it out however, there was friction and it burned the inside of my nose. It was painful but I was so grateful to have it out finally. I never want to go through that again, especially inserting it. Fortunately, I was released the next afternoon.
I honestly attribute my survival to many Beautiful people. To Kumu Keala Kwan, to Kerri Coelho, to my son Elliott, to the Medical Tent paramedic, to the Firemen, to the Ambulance crew and EMTs, to the KS Security, to my wife, to my nurses and nursing assistants, Jennifer, Leigh, Sharon, Janelle, Stephanie, Zoeann, and Lauren, to the attending physicians, Dr. Angela Payumo, Dr. Ryan Rao, Doctor Faith Slater, and interns, and assistants, the surgical consult team and my surgeon Dr. Patrick Pedro, and his assistants. Even Raymond the food service worker who brought me my day of discharge meal with his Giant Warm Infectious Smile and Aloha. The nice Transporter who pushed me to the discharge waiting room and the staff there.
Thank you to Queen Emma Kalanikaumakaʻamano Kaleleonālani Naʻea Rooke and Kamehameha the IV for your vision to help heal our dying people. Now all people of Hawai'i.
And Thank You to all my Beautiful friends and family who sent Love, Light and Prayers when I decided to post my ER visit and developing condition on Facebook. I wanted to add a sense of normalcy, and alleviate my growing apprehension and fear about the potential diagnosis before my tests results came back. You truly helped to not only Heal me, but save me from not only dire medical emergencies, but save me from myself.
I still find myself so worn out and exhausted, that I drift over too often into the Afterlife, before I have fully lived out this Life. This ordeal was yet another stark reminder to Treasure each moment in this Life. To stay here for my family. To finish my kuleana.
Sometimes I know that I choose to carry too much in this Life. My family suffers for my choices. Their Precious time with me cut short because I try to do so much for others. Or just do too much for the sake of wanting to Believe that I need to make up for past shortcomings. For bad deeds. For paying back Ke Akua and the Ancestors for all of the sacrifices they made so that I could be here. So I could have the multitude of Blessings in this Life. My Mother. My Father. My sister Nalani. All who have generously given of their time, energy and Love.
I remember sitting at Ala Moana Center Foodcourt with my family and my in-laws from Japan. We were eating and my wife had Panda Chinese food. She gave me her fortune cookie. I opened it and read quietly the words on the paper. It read, "Let the Strength of Others Carry You for Now." I remember that emotions quickly surfaced and tears burst forth upon reading those words. I needed to quickly hide them and my visceral reaction, looking the other way from the table, which surprised even me.
Sometimes we don't realize how much we carry on our shoulders, until we release it. Like when I was released from the Burial Sites Program of the Department of Land and Natural Resources back in 2004, after ten-years of service, and even after receiving a Letter of Commendation from the Chairperson of the DLNR, because Budget and Finance somehow mysteriously didn't fund my position that year. After I testified against the DLNR in the Walmart burial controversy, that none of the sixty-five burials discovered, men, women and children, most likely from the 1853 small pox epidemic, had to be relocated if the truck exit and entrance stayed the same. They ultimately exhumed everyone even after protests. Funding for my job somehow suddenly ceased.
I was actually offered my job back, with revised duties tying my hands in burial decisions, by the Office of the Governor after an outcry from island burial council members and other supporters in the community. Sadly, I couldn't accept that offer. I had already uncloaked the 1000lb 'ahu'ula that crushed my shoulders each day. An 'ahu'ula not made of treasured feathers. An 'ahu'ula made with the treasured bones of my ancestors. Our ancestors. Our most "Cherished Possession" according to Hawaiian Cultural icon Mary Kawena Pukui.
I said my goodbyes to the ancestors under my care in quiet lonely tearful conversations, while I cleaned out my desk, without a single word from anyone. I had already resigned myself to my fate.
I felt so light, that I could float. I didn't realize how much weight and burdens builds up over the years, until you finally release it. I couldn't put it back on my shoulders. It would have killed me. But yet, here again, after another added fifteen years of similar work and even more kuleana, the cloak has built up and crushes me yet again. It weighs down on my every move. As my emotions percolate just under the surface, awaiting to erupt at any emotive remembrance, or touch of Spirit.
I find myself teetering dangerously on the precipice between Life and Death again. Irresponsibly. Wantonly. Frustratingly.
A Beautiful friend commented on an earlier post when I lamented about being embarrassed to have been paraded in front of the large crowds in such a deplorable weakened helpless condition. They shared that it was to show many, many people about the Power of Faith. Of Healing. So many could bear witness to the spectacle, and then revel in the Healing Force of collective Prayer. Of Resurrection. Of Ke Akua's Divine Mercy and Grace. Of Ke Ali'i Pauahi's Powerful Faith in Christ. What better venue than in front of the Kamehameha Schools 'ohana itself.
After I thought about it, I realized that there was much Truth in those Wise Words.
I suffered Death and found Resurrection in 2012. When I was dying on a dirty sidewalk street curb in front of Zippy's Restaurant on South King Street, profusely sweating, excruciating abdominal pains, trouble breathing, Blackness descending. Heart and kidneys failing. Lungs filling with fluid. Pancreas spitting out enzymes digesting not food, but itself.
After my tearful call to 911. I begged Christ to spare my Life. I was so sorry for offering to forfeit my Life in my growing apathy and exhaustion. My selfishness. Abandoning all those whom I Love. Whom Love me. I had never felt so Helpless before or Alone. Dying right there on the gritty street curb alone.
Then the Sweet Sound of Salvation. Of Angel's Horns blaring. The siren of the Ambulance Arriving.
So I ponder why I left my body in the ICU at Queens. The paths that led me to that decision. Do I Truly Desire Everlasting Life, and to see so many Deceased Loved Ones so Desperately, that I am willing to forfeit this difficult painful Life, and All Whom I Love here?
I ponder my Ancestor Charlemagne. Charles the Great. King of the Franks. King of the Lombards. Even as Holy Roman Emperor. What has he learned in the Afterlife. All those people slaughtered in his war campaigns, in the Name of Christ.
What advice does he have for his mo'opuna, and I for him. As he Loves me. As I Love him. Any of my Ancestors for that matter. About Life. About Death. About Sacrifice. About Resurrection. About Love. About Forgiveness. About Redemption.
So I have come to realize, that Resurrection is just not about Life after Death. We can die a thousand little deaths in our Lifetime. We can die Physically. We can die Mentally. We can die Emotionally. We can even die Spiritually. Even with an Immortal Soul.
Such is the Human Condition. Yet, we can be Resurrected from any of those thousands of little deaths. Such are the Lessons for the Soul. The Lessons of this difficult, painful Life.
So my Physical health in on the mend. Humbly grateful. Looking forward to Healing Emotionally, Mentally and Spiritually as well. As they are all intrinsically linked and inter-dependent upon each other to create the Healed Whole.
So I celebrate Resurrection each and every day. New Life to my Body. Mind. Spirit. Each day. Each moment. Renewal.
All to Him...
Forever and Eternally Grateful...
With Everlasting Love...