Josiah hopes for a new, trimmed-down life

Josiah Kealiikuikalani Kaiu was thin and led a normal life until her turned 6 years old in 1998.

Beginning that year Josiah’s life has turned upside down: He nightly must battle sleep apnea by using breathing equipment, he is obese and experiences exhaustion due to his weight, plus the boy suffers from impaired respiration and vision. He also is a high-risk diabetic.

Josiah, who is of Hawaiian-Chinese ancestry, is a resident of Kalaheo and Wailua, and a student at Kapa’a Middle School.

He is now 11 and stands five feet, eight inches and weighs 289 pounds, and striving to again lead a normal life.

Josiah is facing his health problems knowing that if he doesn’t lose the weight his condition will worsen and his life could be shortened significantly, said Deborah Kaiu, Josiah’s mother, who is a single parent and a homemaker living in Kalaheo.

His only hope, Kaiu says, is treatment in upstate New York at Camp Shane, a specialized weight reduction clinic for youths and young adults.

To raise funds to send Josiah to the camp his family are holding a benefit concert set for Kukui Grove Pavilion on May 24. Their goal is to raise $18,000 for Josiah’s treatment and expenses for the Mainland trip.

Kaiu said she and her husband adopted Josiah when he was two months old. At that time he suffered from asthma, and he was adopted because his natural parents were not able to provide a secure life for him. In the years following the adoption, Kaiu divorced her husband.

For the most part, Josiah was in good health until 1998. Josiah weighed under 100 pounds then and was in the third grade. That year his weight suddenly “ballooned,” increased partly by a diet heavy on fast-food, Kaiu said.

His medical problems are apparently hereditary, Kaiu said, as she is learns more about medical ailments suffered by Josiah’s biological relatives. Josiah’s grandfather in Honolulu, who is in his 60s, has had his legs and an arm amputated because of diabetes, she said.

The boy’s natural father also has diabetes and has blindness in one eye. Josiah’s grandparents (on his natural father’s side) both also suffer from sleep apnea.

Josiah was diagnosed with the condition two years ago. He now requires to have his breathing assisted by a special machine to let him sleep safely. His mother sleeps with him to insure he is safely breathing

Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep, and potentially a life-threatening condition. The condition affects up to 8 million Americans and develops among people who are overweight or have high blood pressure.

His overweight condition is also affecting his social life, resulting in a decline in his self-esteem and worth, Kaiu said.

“He doesn’t like to participate in many things because he feels he is too big,” she said. “But he loves people.”

He occasionally plays tennis and basketball, but spends most of his spare time playing video games. He feels most at home when in the water, and said, “I go there to escape from everybody.”

Kaiu said doctors told her, and she eventually came to realize, that the core of her son’s problem was his inability to control his weight. The normal weight for his height is 124 pounds, she said.

She has taken Josiah to numerous doctors and nutritionists in Hawai’i, and Kaiu restricted her son’s visits to fast-food restaurants, but none of the dieting programs or regimens have worked.

Josiah’s highest weight has been up to 307 pounds, but has remained steady at 289 pounds. Even so, “it is frustrating because we really have tried to help him burn calories,” Kaiu said.

The only in-patient weight reduction clinic that would suit Josiah’s needs in Hawai’i is located at Tripler Army Medical Center O’ahu.

But because Josiah’s family doesn’t have military ties, he can’t use the facility. Kaiu’s health insurance doesn’t cover the cost for private weight loss programs in the state.

For Josiah and his mother, the most viable solution is Camp Shane in faraway Ferndale, New York. The camp opened in 1968 and is known as a world-leader in weight loss programs for youth.

The program features nutrition and dieting education, fitness programs, exercise, weight loss, self-esteem building, activities and friendship, according to the camp’s Web site.

The program is more likely to work than similar programs in Hawai’i, Kaiu believes said, because “the camp will work on him emotionally, psychologically and physically.”

Lori Young, a friend of Kaiu on Kaua’i, is willing to accompany Kaiu and her son to New York state.

Kaiu said she hopes to arrange housing with a New York visitor whom she befriended on Kaua’i.

The camp is mostly a summer one, but Kaiu said she plans to keep her son in the program longer to reach the results they both want.

She said she will miss home, and that her son, who has lived in Hawai’i all his life, may have difficulty adjusting to the hustle bustle life in New York.

But she said sacrifices have to be made for Josiah to get back on track to a normal life. “I want help for him, my baby,” she said.

The fundraiser is to run from 10 am. to 8 p.m. with music by Big Island entertainers Ho’ Aikane, Bruddah Waltah Aipolani and Big lsland Conspiracy, plus the music group Chief Ragga from Honolulu. Entertainers from Kaua’i also are anticipated to perform at the fundraiser.

Advance tickets are $11; and gate tickets are $15. For more information, call 651-2057.

Tickets can be purchased at Aloha Spirit Liquor Store in Hanapepe, Steve MiniMart in Kalaheo, the 76 gasoline station in Kalaheo, Island Dreams store in Lihu’e (next to Hamura Saimin Stand), Larry’s Music in Kapa’a and Kai Kane in Hanalei.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and


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