Relying on health care, island-style

There wasn’t one place remaining for a vehicle with a handicapped sign to park. I put the car in park with the brake on, popped the trunk and got out the new walker, ready. I helped my best travel mate (who happens to be my husband Dee) out of the back seat, where he must ride for the next couple of weeks since his open-heart surgery off-island, and into the Urgent Care facility. After a quick survey of the waiting room, I hurried back out to park as close to the entrance as possible, thinking that it would be a long wait for us to be seen. But no, after stating my concern about some worrisome symptoms post-open-heart surgery and anteing up his insurance cards, we were “fast-tracked.”

It seems that anything with the word “cardio” in it gets precedence. Not only that, but after Dee’s vitals were taken by a very efficient nurse, the doctor let us know that he was sending us to Wilcox Medical Center’s emergency room right away, that Urgent Care was not equipped to handle anything to do with heart.

Did we want an ambulance, to start up oxygen right away, or did I want to drive him right over? were the questions. I looked to Dee for my answer, found he’d prefer me to drive him (Honestly, stopping anywhere else before the ER would not have entered my head). The doctor said he’d call ahead, and an aide kindly wheel-chaired the patient to the car.

I took what I thought was the best and fastest way to the hospital, which happened to be down my favorite Haleko Road toward the Rice Street intersection. Thinking to de-stress, I reminded Dee that this is the road where the smell akin to molasses used to please me so when the old Lihue Plantation Company sugar mill was processing cane, which was often.

Not only that, but this route is flanked by greenery, including some very tall trees reaching for light as the road swoops down. These happen to be festooned with a riot of vines which bear clusters of bright lavender flowers. “How’s the chest wheeze?” I asked as I turned right and made my way carefully past the Lihue Museum and post office, taking a quick peek in the rear view mirror.

“Not too bad,” he answered after a coughing bout.

“How’s your hand?” I caught the last second of the green left-turn arrow at Rice and Umi.

He held it up for me to see in the mirror, wiggled the fingers. “Still feels numb.”

Calm down … safe and slow, through the Hardy Street traffic circle, ditto down to Ahukini Road. Wait for a break in traffic leaving and approaching Lihue — whew! Turn left and catch that right turn onto Kuhio Highway, get in the left lane until past the Kauai Medical Center, make a quick right toward the ER and lot, pull into the portico. Quick and smooth, get a wheelchair, get my man situated and in. Line him up at the check-in window, park and return. We’ll be next. Woops! Move over, the lavender-suited admitting nurse needs to wheel in another, older gentleman here before us for his interview.

“Long story short,” once we were seen and then through the wait, everything progressed fast. I started to breathe easier as the monitor blinked out a nice, even fence line of green for heartbeat and good vital readings. An toasty-warm blanket was brought to the patient to ward off the chill. Nurses and health technicians plus the ER doctor flowed in and out taking info, noting the symptoms, double- and triple-checking. Soon, off Dee was whisked for the first of what turned out to be many tests and X-rays.

By the time I realized it had been about eight hours since we initially left home, we learned that it would be best if Dee was admitted overnight for observation and, perhaps, some further types of tests come morning after doctor visits and recommendations. I could stay with him if placed in a room, but not (of course) in the ICU.

Once I knew the room and room number and knew he was in good hands, I whisked home to refrigerate the contents of a Dutch oven full of chicken and garlic I’d finished simmering just before leaving, pick up my pillow, toothbrush and a book (I threw in my clip-on reading light and cell phone charger as well as a warm throw, and the reading glasses we’d both forgotten in the earlier foray).

I hurried. Everything smelled fresh. It had rained, washing down our home world. The clouds continued their crying as I kept pretty close to the 40 mph decreed on the return trip. Headlights and street lights sparkled. The wipers kept up a nice even beat almost to Hanamaulu — like my husband’s heartbeat, I thought. The wipers squeaked as I navigated the Kapaia hill down- and up-swoops. I turned them off, then on again, as it poured again as I swung into the hospital lot approaching midnight.

This is all in the recent past, and now we are back home with all settled to have Dee continue his recuperation. I think how trying it is for those who love and care for someone who has undergone a serious surgery, and how fortunate we are on Kauai to have such dedicated and caring medical personnel and good clinic and hospital facilities.

Some years back I’d read that Wilcox Medical Center was deemed one of the top 12 small hospitals in the United States, and I’ll stand by that call.

Thank you to all who helped us through what turned out (luckily for us) not to be a serious emergency, from aides to technicians to nurses and a team of doctors.

My sincere, “heart”-felt mahalo nui loa kakou (thank you all very much). We can rest easy and look forward to better days surrounded by sunshine and beauty because of your dedication and expertise, not to mention just plain friendly care.


Dawn Fraser Kawahara, resident author and poet, has focused her supportive interests within the Kauai community since the early 1980s. She and her husband, a retired biology teacher, live in Wailua Homesteads and share a passion for books and travel. Kawahara’s books, including the just-released “Burma Banyan, A Daughter’s Odyssey,” are available through Amazon and other outlets. For information, email

  1. Susan Campbell November 11, 2019 9:11 am Reply

    How frightening. Prayers for a smooth recovery.

  2. charlie chimknee November 11, 2019 9:47 pm Reply

    In a case like this is it possible to meet the ambulance along the way to use emergency services sooner and siren for traffic.

    Aging does not need to include these illnesses when prevention should start when people are young.

    None the less hoping for your speedy recovery.

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