Rocket has landed

LIHUE — Rusdan Rocket Kaikea Ahuna, who left Kauai as a freshman at Kapaa High School in April, came home Saturday afternoon, greeted by his halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina‘ala, and friends.

“It’s good to have him home,” said Leina‘ala Pavao Jardin, the kumu hula for the halau whose members showered the young man with lei and affectionate hugs.

Kanoe Ahuna, Rusdan’s mother, said he left in April for surgery to treat Chondro Sarcoma, a bone cancer in his skull.

“This has been quite an adventure,” Kanoe said. “But he had two surgeries and it appears the doctors got everything. It should be OK from now.”

En route to the Stanford Children’s Hospital where Rusdan had his surgery done, the family’s car was broken into while visiting at the Fisherman’s Wharf. Personal belongings, including Rusdan’s medical records, a collection of well wishes, and his brother Kilikai’s computer and cameras were lost.

The police union got together and helped replace the computer and camera, but Kanoe said the cards of aloha meant to be read during Rusdan’s recovery were irreplaceable.

People around the country responded with aloha following telecasts of the incident, and on Friday, the eve of the Ahuna’s family departure, Rusdan was presented a Certificate of Honor by Ed Lee, the mayor of San Francisco, and given a tour of City Hall.

“We had all kinds of people tweeting,” Dan said. “Facebook even gave him a book containing all the tweets.”

Dan Ahuna, moved to tears by the welcome home group that burst into oli, said Rusdan underwent two surgeries, and remembers meeting John Uyeno, the former publisher of The Garden Island and a Past District Governor for the District 50 Lions.

“There were three families from Hawaii,” Dan said. “We cried together. We thought it was just going to be one surgery. Rocket actually was put under four times. Twice, it was pretty non-invasive, but he was put under.”

Kanoe said following the first nine-hour surgery, Rusdan didn’t have control over certain portions of his face. This was corrected following the second surgery.

“The tumor he had damaged part of his vocal cord,” Kanoe said. “The second surgery corrected that, but he is not supposed to speak because of the recovery.”

That did not stop the young man from being smothered with aloha and being welcomed home.

“This has been an adventure,” Kanoe said. “It’s good to be home.”

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