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Air miles stoke visit for Wang’s birthday

From David Chen, husband of Theresa Wang, who is recovering from injuries sustained in the Nov. 19 car crash that also injured Colt Brennan:

Aloha to our Ohana,

Having left my dear Theresa the previous evening, the early morning return flight to Kona was almost scrubbed before I even made it to the airport.

Recall that when we transferred from Craig Hospital in Denver, the flight only went as far as LAX where the CNS shuttle picked us up for the normally 2-hour (actually 5-hour) drive to their rehab facility.

So not having flown into Meadows Field Airport, I was now driving there based on vague directions provided by a rehab aide — it’s on Highway 99 north of town. In hindsight, it still seems obvious to take the “Airport Road” exit, which I did and then became hopelessly lost looking for any hint of the next directional sign.

At 5 a.m., not much is open but I finally came upon a truck stop oasis (a suitable name since I was literally lost in the desert of the San Joaquin Valley) and then given proper directions to take the “Merle Haggard” exit. Of course that makes sense, but only if you know the connection between the country singer and the airport, which still eludes me.

In any case, I did make it in time to catch the puddle jumper to San Francisco where my next obstacle was a short connection to the Kona flight. The Lord must have wanted me to be on that plane because I sprinted through the terminal and was the second last to board.

But the cost was my overwhelmed brain as I screwed up the Halfway to Hawaii calculation and missed by exactly 10 minutes again. Thanks go to our dear friend Geoff for donating the double air miles that covered my last-minute flight to Denver and the return from Bakersfield. Without his generosity, those tickets would have cost over $2,800.

The outpouring of blessings continued upon arriving at the Kona-Keahole Airport where I was met by Al & Linda, our pastor and his wife. In addition to providing a ride home, they also took me to lunch at a Kona favorite of theirs, Quinns Almost by the Sea.

I had really missed not being able to attend our local community church services the past four weeks so it was wonderful to catch up with them and to renew my faith. As a special blessing, Theresa even joined us in her own way for lunch, phoning shortly after Pastor Al finished saying grace.

So as we enjoyed the meal and passed the phone around, it really was a wonderful time spent with Theresa engaging all of us with her good spirits and lively conversation.

One day in the near future, it will be our turn to have Pastor Al and Linda along with some other dear friends over for dinner and I just know that Theresa will enjoy planning and preparing a culinary masterpiece.

When I consider how far she has come along her healing journey in these fast five months that I could even contemplate a dinner party, it is truly a gift from God for which we offer our praise and thanks.

With the 3-hour time difference between us, for the rest of the week there wasn’t too much contact except for the occasional text message arriving at 5 a.m., likely sent during breakfast time and just before boarding the shuttle to the rehab clinic; or the late afternoon phone call as Theresa was preparing for bed.

In addition to sharing some of her rehab successes like sorting out a pile of items into 12 boxes in record time, or walking for over 100 feet with the EVO-walker, Theresa also took part in several outings including a haircut, enjoying Soul Surfer — the new movie by our friend, Roy, the executive producer of Princess Kaiulani, and a much anticipated trip to the Murray Family Farms.

As Theresa recounted, she was somewhat disappointed by this farm as it did not have nearly as much fresh produce as our local Waimea Farmers’ Market. Given that most crops besides citrus, strawberries and winter veggies are not in season yet, that’s to be expected here.

Still, she is looking forward to the cherry season coming up in May as Murray Family Farms boasts 17 varieties of God’s own candy.

Last Wednesday evening, I attended the monthly Pacific Head Injury Support Group Meeting and listened with fascination to the story of Dan, a local Kona coffee farmer who is recovering from a recent experimental surgical procedure to increase blood flow to the side of his brain damaged by injury.

Having met and spoken with Dan before the surgery that was performed at the Duke University Medical Center in Raleigh, N.C., it’s quite noticeable how his speech and cognitive abilities have improved so quickly. It’s too bad that it took almost two years of battling with his health insurer to cover this, but the results already show much promise.

In a related story, the office of Gaby Giffords, the Arizona member of Congress that suffered a brain injury from an assassination attempt, is pushing for a bill to demand post-acute treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) as basic care covered by health insurers.

This would allow anyone with a TBI to gain access to the same level of care she received as a government official and a cause that we should all support.

The past week was busy for the both of us as I dealt with seemingly never-ending insurance issues and the looming tax filing deadline while Theresa concentrated on her rehab therapies. My elbows may be sore after a marathon week of entering data but I’m sure it’s minor compared to Theresa’s aches.

On a daily basis, she is performing sit and stands almost continuously and beginning to practice walking without the EVO-walker for support. That puts most of the weight on her hips which exacerbates the pain from the pelvic fracture.

Bless her heart and thank the Lord, she may grimace and take breaks but she mostly refuses the pain meds, knowing that they dull the pain but also hinder her processing speed.

With Theresa’s birthday approaching on April 22, which also happens to be Good Friday and Earth Day, I’d been monitoring the airfares closely, praying and hoping that the price would drop below $1,200 but instead watching it go the other way. So with most flights to/from Hawaii still full with last-minute Spring Break visitors, it was not looking like we’d be celebrating together.

At least it seemed that way until our dear friend Hylton offered up his air miles and miraculously, one award seat opened up last night. Taking full advantage of this dual blessing, I’m made the Pacific crossing yet again to spend with my dear wife that most special of days. For this among many other gifts of grace, we are most thankful to our Lord and Shepherd, Jesus Christ.


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