WAILUA — John Kaulukukui is a surfer boy, and has never been in the water since his accident, said Josie Pablo on Tuesday at Lydgate Park.
“This is the first time he’s been to the beach since his accident,” said the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital recreation director. “And, a Kauai Community College nursing student even went to get a surfboard he had in his car. John can ride a surfboard, again.”
Kaulukukui was one of 37 Mahelona Hospital residents who enjoyed one of two beach outings planned by Pablo and the Mahelona Hospital family. They were joined by five residents from the Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital who arrived with Joanna Martin, KVMH recreation director, aboard the hospital’s paratransit bus.
The former surfer lost little time expressing his joy at being back in the water, getting applauded by Pablo and his KCC nursing student chaperones after diving below the surface and audibly blowing water on his surfacing. His joy continued to the post-swimming shower where he audibly blew mouthfuls of water into the air.
“There are some amazing stories at this beach,” said Peter Klune, Hawaii Health Systems Corp, CEO for the Kauai Region. “This is a good thing to watch these residents have fun.”
Klune arranged to have his Kauai Region Executive Team at the beach to serve lunch to residents and volunteers.
“We couldn’t do it without the volunteers,” Pablo said. “Wilma Chandler just goes out and rounds up these five, or six people and they come to help with all of our big outings like the Charity Walk, the Kauai County Farm Bureau Fair, and this beach outing.”
Clyde Furumoto, one of those volunteers, said they all come from Wilma’s high school class, and helping her is like a mini-reunion.
“The bad part of retirement,” Furumoto said, “is there is no day off.”
Char Ono of KCC had 23 students volunteering.
“It’s nice to see the residents are part of the community,” Ono said. “It’s wonderful to see the staff of these hospitals respect the residents’ culture while addressing their spiritual and emotional needs.”
Ono said nursing students from the Okinawa Prefecture College of Nursing also help with the hospital’s second beach outing, which is timed to coincide with the Okinawa students’ annual visit to Kauai Community College, usually in August.
“The Okinawa students and teachers were so moved by the experience, they went home and tried to set up a similar program, there,” Ono said. “But their weather is not the same. They have to deal with winds and temperature so could not do it. The Okinawa students also established a relationship with Friendship House (for people dealing with mental illness), and by working with them, became aware of places in Japan who do similar work.”
Cathy Matayoshi, treasurer for the Mahelona Hospital Auxiliary, said she enjoys attending the beach outings to talk with the Okinawa students.
“They get so excited,” Matayoshi said. “They go back to Okinawa and talk with other students about the experience. It gets the other students excited about coming to Kauai. When we first started doing this, Josie needed help getting floaters and other equipment to make this work. The Auxiliary didn’t hesitate in helping her because of the quality of life it provides the residents.”
Pablo said the outing which draws a lot of dis-believing looks from visitors is possible only because of the cooperation and support of the entire hospital as well as the County of Kauai who provided for the Mobi-Mat which makes getting in and out of the water easier, and the Kauai Bus which helps with transporting residents to and from the beach.
“It’s all about making sure our residents have quality of life and are happy,” Pablo said.