‘A LIVING MIRACLE’: Waiakea High School student whose heart stopped making strides in his recovery, prepares to attend graduation

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A month and a half ago, 17-year-old Ryler Nishimoto was in a medically induced coma after his heart stopped during basketball practice.

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A month and a half ago, 17-year-old Ryler Nishimoto was in a medically induced coma after his heart stopped during basketball practice.

On Tuesday, he was expected to return home from the hospital and is preparing to attend his graduation at Waiakea High School, according to friends.

Nishimoto was at Wainaku Gym in early April when he experienced cardiac arrest and fell to the floor. A friend performed CPR, keeping blood pumping to Nishimoto’s brain as others called 911.

“He flat-lined, but by the good grace of God the paramedics were able to bring him back,” wrote family friend Gina Chun on a GoFundMe.com webpage she started to help the family cover Nishimoto’s medical bills.

“Ryler is now at Kapiolani Children’s and Women’s hospital and is in an induced coma. We all praying that when he does wake he will lead a normal life.”

During the last month or so, Chun has documented Nishimoto’s remarkable progress, from when he first began to open his eyes to a series of smiling photos with family and friends, to a YouTube video showing him putting a basketball in a small hoop to the delight of his nurses.

“Ryler continues to shine and improve despite what doctors had first thought,” Chun wrote April 23. “They are all amazed by his daily improvements. A week ago he learned to stand.”

Five days later, he headed into rehabilitation.

“I was very thrilled to receive a text from Ryler this morning,” Chun said April 28. “I’m sure (he) must have had some help, but regardless it only shows how he is improving every day. He wrote that he was improving every day and will be moving from hospital to Rehab of the Pacific on Oahu tomorrow. He said he has physical, occupational and speech therapy every day.”

Chun added that the boy’s aunt reported he was able to do math problems and is passing the time playing chess.

“The doctors still don’t understand how he’s proven their prognosis wrong and keep saying he is a living miracle,” she said.

In a Tuesday email, Waiakea High Principal Kelcy Koga confirmed Nishimoto was hoping to make it to the May 30 graduation exercises.

“I do know that Ryler is continuing to make strides in his recovery, which is in many ways miraculous,” he wrote in an email. “It is planned that Ryler graduates with his class; however, it will depend on how he feels that day before his mother confirms his attendance.”

Attempts to contact Nishimoto’s family were unsuccessful.

The Hilo Crescent City Lions Club is planning to donate some of the proceeds from its upcoming summer Funfest fundraiser to help defray the costs of Nishimoto’s medical bills. In response to a request for more information, someone named Sean who responded to the club’s email address explained “the family is asking for some time for them to get settled in. They are very appreciative for the overwhelming supPort from the community.”

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Chun’s GoFundMe campaign, with a stated goal of $20,000, had raised $15,242 by Tuesday afternoon. For more information, visit http://www.gofundme.com/qnjet8.

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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