Professionals donate their Christmas Eve

LIHU’E — If this story doesn’t get you into the holiday spirit, perhaps nothing will.

While many people were out getting their last-minute gift-giving or holiday-meal shopping done Saturday morning and afternoon, nearly two dozen people, including children, were donating their time and talents to offer free healthcare to those in need and who don’t have the means to pay for that needed care.

For Dr. Greg K. Naganuma and staff (and families) of the Great Smiles Dental office in Kukui Grove Professional Village, Saturday was the 10th annual free-care-day event.

For Steve Nakamura and his staff (and families) of Action Physical Therapy in the same building, this was their first free-care-day experience.

And while Joann Naganuma of Great Smiles Dental said she saw lots of people yesterday who come back year after year for the free care, many of them saying, “Do you remember me?” the scene was a bit different at Action Physical Therapy.

While the waiting room of Great Smiles Dental was full of needy Kauaians needing dental care, only a few people trickled into the Action Physical Therapy office.

Offered from 7:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, the free-care-day event drew only a few people to Action Physical Therapy Saturday morning, owner Steve Nakamura figuring that many people don’t know exactly what physical therapy can do for people’s aches and pains, and that people plain just don’t know about the new business.

Still, five people gave up most of the final shopping day before Christmas to volunteer and help people with neck and back pain, and at least three people took advantage of the free services in the early-morning hours Saturday.

One physical therapist was working with a young Kaua’i woman on neck-muscle-stretching exercises, while Nakamura consulted with an older man with a cane who was experiencing back pain.

Nakamura was assessing him, finding out what the man is able and not able to do because of his back pain, and then working out a treatment plan for him.

On a treatment bed nearby, Darlene Garania of Hanama’ulu was hooked up to an interferential stimulation machine underneath an ice pack, to ease her lower-back pain.

Nakamura recommended a series of stretching exercises for Garania.

Nakamura said Dr. Greg Naganuma approached him to participate in the free-care-day event, and since Nakamura is just starting out as owner and operator of Action Physical Therapy, and wanted to give back to needy members of the community and at the same time let others know he’s there and open for business, and what kinds of services he and members of his staff offer, he decided to participate, he said.

Over at Great Smiles Dental, Joann Naganuma said that, when she and other staff members arrived at 6:30 a.m., there were already around 20 people waiting for the free services.

Two hygienists, including one visiting from Texas who used to work for Great Smiles Dental, M.J. Krenek, along with Susan Kahawai, dental student Anna King, and Jackie Oshiro, now of Honolulu who also earlier worked for Great Smiles Dental, all offered to volunteer their time, Joann Naganuma said.

Family members of the Great Smiles Dental staff members also helped out, and they all planned to stay until all the patients were helped, she said.

And while every year it gets easier, with everyone knowing their duties, like cleaning the examination rooms between patients, developing X-rays, and other chores, “it’s always doctor who works the hardest on these days,” she said of her husband.

Family members brought in snacks, and those volunteering managed to sneak in a few bites between patients.

The fact that the office is closed from yesterday, Sunday, Dec. 25, Christmas Day, until after New Year’s, is not the motivating factor behind the volunteerism, she said.

“They get a lot out of it, too, just giving back to the community,” Joann Naganuma said.

In between the free-care services, she took two calls from paying customers, patients needing emergency dental services, one who will come in from Princeville, who otherwise would not have been able to find a dentist’s office open on a Saturday that is also Christmas Eve.

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