Hospital beach outing brings people together

WAILUA — Noriko Toyama could only utter one word Tuesday: wonderful.

She and 12 students from the Okinawa Prefectural College of Nursing joined the staff of Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital and Kaua‘i Veterans Memorial Hospital in providing a beach outing for the residents of both medical care facilities.

“This is wonderful,” Toyama said. “We arrived on Kaua‘i Sunday, and today we’re meeting up with people and helping at the beach.”

Josie Pablo, the recreational director at Mahelona Hospital, said the twice-a-summer event is very popular with the residents, but it would not be possible without the help of a lot of people.

Hawai‘i Health Systems Corp. Regional Director Jerry Walker, who oversees Mahelona and KVMH, said it was wonderful to have both hospitals participating in the unique activity.

“We just hired an activities person at KVMH so we should be seeing more of this out there as well,” he said.

Steve Klein, the occupational therapist at KVMH, said following the bon dance two weeks ago and the beach outing, he thinks they’ll settle down to just field trips until the big KVMH Foundation craft fair in November.

Pablo said in addition to the Okinawa nursing students — whose trip is coordinated through the Kaua‘i Community College Nursing Department — the Kaua‘i Bus with its paratransit vehicles, the staff of Mahelona Hospital and the Mahelona Auxiliary are key players in the outing.

This year, with the Lydgate Park ponds being dredged, the group was joined by firefighters from the Kapa‘a fire station as a safety precaution for the deep spots.

Kaua‘i Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. made a surprise visit to the group while returning from Kapa‘a High School where he visited with three students from Ishigaki, Japan, who are on Kaua‘i for a week’s experience.

“This is wonderful,” Carvalho said, a news reporter telling the mayor how tears came to her eyes when she saw what was happening. “Salt air. There is nothing like salt air to help heal and the weather is perfect for the beach.”

He sorted through the various student groups who visited the island over the past few weeks: the elementary school science club, the Ishigaki high school students, and the Okinawa Prefectural College of Nursing students.

Brian Yamamoto of KCC said while Okinawa shares a similar climate to Kaua‘i, most of these students have not seen waves, nor experienced the beaches like those on Kaua‘i.

“The only time they have waves is when a typhoon hits,” Yamamoto said.

“The sand they have there is flat, even in the water,” he said. “That’s why Okinawa surfers wait for typhoons — so they can surf.”

Carvalho relished the concept of everyone working together to make the situation a win-win for all concerned.

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