Aloha spirit accompanies medical evacuees: Student’s Mayday Kits close to his heart

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High school student Chaden Shimaoka-Bello learned about meeting deadlines, reaching out for help from the community and staying organized.

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High school student Chaden Shimaoka-Bello learned about meeting deadlines, reaching out for help from the community and staying organized.

But the aloha spirit he included in each care package created for his Kamehameha Schools Hawaii senior legacy project flowed from empathy rather than obligation.

“Just to give them a little bit of our culture is really important to me,” Shimaoka-Bello said Friday outside the Hilo Medical Center emergency room.

That’s where patients who his project serves arrive — some with life-threatening head injuries, in need of heart surgery, during the aftermath of traumatic auto crashes and with a variety of other neurological, cardiovascular and orthopedic crises.

A loved one receives a call — often at the most unexpected time — that a spouse, sibling, parent or child has been rushed to HMC’s emergency room. That loved one, still reeling from the news and extent of the crisis, arrives at the ER to stand alongside in support.

He or she gets the unexpected news and climbs aboard a medical-evacuation flight with the loved one, heading to an even-higher-level trauma center on another island, with nothing but the clothes he or she was wearing when the phone rang.

“Probably the worst day of their life … it’s unexpected,” said Roxanne Batalla, Hilo Medical Center ER clinical coordinator. “So they never have anything on them. It’s scary. They’re not prepared.”

Such a scenario happens about 30 times a month, according to the hospital.

Hours later, once the injured person’s condition has been stabilized in Hilo and the patient transferred is off-island, comes a time when the loved one might want to clean up a little.

The care packet — called a Mayday Kit — includes essentials such as a toothbrush, toothpaste and other personal items that Shimaoka-Bello included.

“I have been blessed to take this project on, and I hope that this kit can serve as something useful while brightening up your day a little,” he wrote to recipients in a Mayday Kit note.

Shimaoka-Bello included an artistic card with Hawaiian sayings, a way to share aloha and personalize the gift. Often, he said, tourists are among those who experience a medical crisis, and he wants to offer them some Hawaiian culture.

Seniors at the KS Hawaii campus have Mayday Kits as one of many options for a senior legacy project. A student has chosen Mayday Kits each of the past five years, working with the Hilo Medical Center Foundation to create them. Each student, such as Shimaoka-Bello, has had a personal connection to a medical evacuation from Hilo.

His mother, Rayna Arkangel, said the moment Shimaoka-Bello dropped off his donation was touching for her because she was remembering how difficult their own experience was.

“My mom and my auntie, they both were in a crosswalk and got hit,” she said. They were life-flighted when Shimaoka-Bello was just a few years old.

“This project was especially near and dear to my heart, as I personally know the tremendous amount of stress a family can go through when a loved one needs to be medevaced to Oahu,” he says in his Mayday Kit note. “In December 2003, both my grandmother and my aunt were in a major accident together and had to be medevaced to Queen’s Hospital on Oahu for life-threatening injuries. I know for a fact that my family members who flew with my grandmother and aunt could have definitely used these Mayday Kits during our difficult time and that it would have alleviated some of the stress.”

Kamehameha high school Principal Lehua Veincent said, “Chaden is always thinking about the other person, trying to make an impact on people in need. He is very grounded in his culture.”

Each senior at Kamehameha chooses a career track and completes a legacy project intended to have a lasting community impact, with a capstone presentation about the project in the school gym before graduation.

Shimaoka-Bello’s project will serve 135 people, which surpasses his personal goal of 100 — enough to supply life flights from Hilo Medical Center for about four months.

“This is an awesome project for him to do because it really touches our heart … he just continues to amaze me and surpass all my expectations of him,” his mother said.

Shimaoka-Bello also volunteers at the obstetrics unit at Hilo Medical Center, said Lisa Rantz, executive director of the HMC Foundation, and he serves as president of the Health Occupations Students of America Club at Kamehameha, with hopes of become a physician.

“He is amazing,” she said.

Donations for the kits came from places such as Kamehameha Schools, KTA Super Stores, Hilo Medical Center and Walgreens.

Without their help, he said, the project would not have been as successful.

But Shimaoka-Bello kept the focus on those in need.

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“There’s really a lot of patients that come in and out of this ER every day,” he said.

Email Jeff Hansel at jhansel@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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