Queen Kapi’olani’s Living Gift to Island Keiki

The toughest journey voyager Nainoa Thompson ever made was the one that began when his son was born with a life-threatening disorder. At 9 months, all’s well. Nainoa Thompson has been on many epic voyages in his life. But not one of them compares to the journey that he and his wife, KHON’s Kathy Muneno, have been on as they welcome their children into the world.

Wednesday - August 19, 2009
By Alice Keesing
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Queen Kapi‘olani

ing for more and more sick children, and the technology that saves them is taking up more and more room. In the process, the softer areas of the hospital, like waiting rooms, have been chipped away.

The neonatal and pediatric ICUs are models of an old system of care, with rows of bassinets or curtained cubicles that offer no privacy. In both ICUs, families are out in the open as they celebrate or grieve life-and-death moments. Nainoa saw this happen while his family was in the NICU with Na’i. When something happens, everyone feels it.


Beyond the technology and skill that saved Na’i's life, the Thompsons were deeply touched by the love and compassion they found in the hospital.

“This was the most terrifying experience I’ve been through,” Nainoa says. “At the same time, it was the most powerful humane experience I’ve been through, too.”

He and Kathy remain grateful to the staff, from the nurse who made that first, life-saving call, to Dr. Johnson who would call from the OR to let them know how Na’i was doing, to nurses such as Laura Fujimoto, who would carry Na’i in a sling so he had that important human contact when they could not be there.

Both golfer Tadd Fujikawa and City Mill president Stephen Ai were Kapi‘olani ‘preemies’

“It’s so comforting to know they’re being loved,” Kathy says. “And there were also those times when I would break down, thinking I couldn’t do it, and they would be there with a hug and talking to me.”

Queen Kapi’olani started the Kapi’olani Maternity Home in 1909 by holding bazaars and luaus to raise the $8,000 needed. Now, 100 years later, Kapi’olani is asking for the community’s help again as it raises money for the future. Just as Hawaii’s residents rely on Kapi’olani to be there when they need it, the non-profit hospital needs its community support. And this year the hospital unveiled a multimillion-dollar, 15-year expansion plan.

First up is new space that will quadruple the NICU and triple the PICU. Both ICUs will move from an open-plan model to private rooms that will allow families to stay with their children 24 hours a day.

“The new unit will have all state-of-the-art design, with noise-deadening floors, and walls and ceilings because it’s been proven that, by minimizing stimulation, the babies are less stressed and they can grow faster and gain weight,” Smith says.

Phase I, which is targeted for completion in 2017, also includes an education space that will give parents the skills they need to care for their child at home. And a new family room will allow parents to take care of everyday needs, such as laundry, during extended hospital stays.

Nainoa will not be the only one happy to hear that the expansion also includes a new parking lot. As he and Kathy recently watched their son and daughter play under the kiawe trees at the Thompson family home, he reflected on what Kapi’olani means to Hawaii.

The hospital saved his son. The Thompsons get to dream about the things they will do with their children as they embark on the next journey of growing up: about the first paddles they might use and the voyages they might take. But Nainoa has always looked to the bigger horizon, and, for him, that future includes all the children that the hospital will help in the next 100 years.

“Kapi’olani is a treasure for Hawaii,” he says. “It’s something Hawaii should be proud of. And all treasures need to be cared for.”

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