Ronald McDonald House
Oh Yes… It’s Fun to Breath!
By Gene Davis
Big Island seventeen-year-old Keali‘i Ross-Lucas can do something now that he was never able to do before – something that we all take for granted. He can take a long, deep, satisfying breath through his nose. Keali‘i and his mom Lili‘u Ross are both hoping that this breakthrough will mean a new beginning.
Growing up has been difficult for Keali‘i, who had severe learning disabilities. When he finally began speaking at age seven, it sounded like gibberish – that is until his family decided to try recording what he was saying and then playing it backwards.
They were stunned when they realized that Keali’i was speaking in backward phrases and sentences. It was just a sign that the wiring in Keali‘i’s brain wasn’t like most people. Through hard work, he began putting his words together normally but then at age ten, as Lili‘u describes, “His organs started to dysfunction and his condition became serious. Everything started clogging up in his face and then elsewhere in his body.
” Lili‘u learned of a relative who had fought similar symptoms and got relief from oxygen therapy. They didn’t have a better theory, so they took him in for an examination. “A CT Scan showed that his nasal passages were completely twisted and blocked,” she says. “He was getting no air through his nostrils. I realized that he had been suffering all this time from a lack of oxygen and he had no idea because it was the norm for him.”
Keali‘i remembers that day as well. “The doctor said he had never seen anything like this before,” he says, almost proudly. “So he had his surgery and all I could do was pray,” remembered Lili‘u. “It took them three and a half hours to finish. Not only did they open up his blocked sinus passages, but they removed his tonsils as well.”
Keali‘i needed to recuperate from the surgery and stay close to doctors for a couple of weeks so the Ronald McDonald House was their temporary “home-away-from-home”.
When we got there to the House, and he was resting, we found peace and comfort,” Lili‘u, said. “This place has given us friendship. It gave us a greater understanding that life is so precious and anything can happen at any given time. This House encapsulates faith and hope, not just for me and Keali‘i, but all the families here so they can remain so positive and help to bring positivity to each other.”
For Keali`i, a kind and likable young man whose childhood was anything but typical, it has been another of his many adventures. “Oh yes, it’s fun to breathe,” he says enthusiastically. His organs appear to be responding to the increased oxygen supply, and he was looking forward to returning home to see his family, his dogs, continue his life with mom in their modest home at the 2,500 foot elevation on Mauna Kea, and resume farming their organic vegetables and herbs. “I want us to all get together to see each other again and help each other and to make each other healthy and happy,” he shared.
Lili`u was looking forward to getting back home too, which she described as “a 9’ by 12’ lean-to that my carpenter son built for us. It’s small but very functional and we have solar panels.” What will Lili’u do first when she gets home? “I’m going to grab my daughters and my moopuna (grandchildren) and give them a big hug and a kiss and then to get back to helping to build my family,” she said.