Kapiolani’s Champion Kid

Solomon, Ikaika and Amanda Ka‘ahanui | Nathalie Walker photo

Some people have a way of showing you the brighter side of things even in the most difficult of times. They have an overflowing amount of love to share and simply know how to bring a smile to your face. Meet 9-year-old Ikaika Ka’ahanui.

Since the day he was born, Ka’ahanui hasn’t had the easiest life. Within hours of his birth at Castle Medical Center, doctors decided he was not getting enough oxygen and rushed him to Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children. There, at just a couple of days old, Ka’ahanui underwent an MRI that revealed a hole between his trachea and esophagus, a congenital defect called tracheoesophageal fistula.

Ka’ahanui ended up spending four months in Kapiolani’s NICU and underwent numerous surgeries, including one to repair the hole. He also needed a gastrointestinal tube to deliver food directly to his stomach and received two tiny hearing aids.

At 2 months old, he had surgery for a tracheostomy to help with his breathing, and when he turned 7, he became strong enough to have it removed.

In July he’ll have his 13th surgery to implant a bone-anchored hearing aid. Now a fourth-grader at Aikahi Elementary School, Ka’ahanui continues to grow stronger each day. He communicates using American Sign Language and speech, and continues to visit Kapiolani for speech and feeding therapy. And like many other children his age, he loves sharks and enjoys playing Legos and games on a tablet.

“Children teach us things we didn’t know we didn’t know,” notes mom Amanda, who also started the Hawaii chapter of the national nonprofit Hands and Voices. “They teach us how to see the beauty in everything. Their wonder of the world is infectious, and Ikaika has this beautiful spirit, so we feel very lucky.

“He’s had a lot of hard challenges, but he has never let it bring him down. He always sees the world as a gift, and that has helped me to not be down. He’s a positive, upbeat, friendly, outgoing, sweet child.”

The Kapiolani Children’s Miracle Network also recognized these inspiring qualities in Ka’ahanui and named him the 2013 Hawaii Champion. With this title, he will serve as an ambassador for Kapiolani Medical Center and Hawaii, raising awareness for the 10 million kids treated every year at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, including tens of thousands here in the state. In October, Ka’ahanui and his parents (Amanda, a head instructor for Honolulu Zoo Society, and Solomon, a zookeeper for Honolulu Zoo), will join Champions from the other states in Washington D.C., and Orlando, Fla., to highlight the work of the Children’s Miracle Network, which raises funds for 170 children’s hospitals across North America.

“When Ikaika was in the NICU, they brought a mobile for him to look at, and what a natural thing to have a little infant and a mobile sitting in the crib,” recalls Amanda. “Well, he’s in the hospital and they brought him a mobile, and those things are not covered by insurance. It was from Child Life Services (which is one of the Kapiolani programs the Children’s Miracle Network supports).”

One hundred percent of donations raised in Hawaii by Kapiolani Children’s Miracle Network stays in Hawaii to help sick children at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, Hawaii’s only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. To learn more, visit KapiolaniGift.org. yting@midweek.com