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Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Kapi’olani Medical Center Gives Children a Second Chance

Situated in the heart of Honolulu, the Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women & Children treats the children of Hawai’i. Despite its relative isolation, the staff and facility are able to provide excellent care to the kids who come to them for help. Since Kapi’olani is a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, Extra Lifers in the area have supported the hospital for years now, giving the hospital access to additional resources they can use to help kiddos with a wide variety of medical issues big and small.

Julie Kobayashi was an energetic and rambunctious child. At just 11 years old, she knew she loved video games, food, sleep, and playing clarinet in band. Julie had been pushing herself to practice for an upcoming school performance and began feeling like she was coming down with a case of stomach flu. However, something about her symptoms didn’t seem right to her parents. They took her to see her doctor who ordered some routine blood tests, but as she walked down the hall of the doctor’s office she began seeing white spots and her vision went blurry. From there, Julie was rushed to Kapi’olani so doctors could figure out what was happening to her.

Once admitted to Kapi’olani, Julie’s story took on an even scarier tenor. Doctors discovered that her heart was enlarged, diagnosing her with dilated cardiomyopathy just a few weeks short of her 12th birthday. That diagnoses meant that her heart wasn’t pumping blood through her body correctly, moving blood at a more than 90% reduced rate. After admitting her to Kapi’olani’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit to stabilize her, the talented hospital staff and doctors helped both Julie and her family to understand the situation: She would need a heart transplant.

Being isolated from the mainland, Kapi’olani doesn’t have access to the donor organs that hospitals across the continental United States do. Julie would need to be transported to the West Coast for the operation. Thankfully, Kapi’olani is able to field a communicative team of nurses and specialists to transport children to mainland facilities. “The transport team was excellent. They called us before they left. They called us when they landed. They called us when they handed her off in Seattle,” said Julie’s mom, Lori Kobayashi, “They really, really tried to make it less painful for us to let her go.”

Julie got her heart thanks to the quick work of Kapi’olani’s medical staff and the surgeons at the pediatric transplant center in Seattle. That was years ago, and Julie is now making the most of her heart as a healthy 18-year-old senior in high school. She still plays video games and practices clarinet in her school’s band, but she has developed a love of lion dancing, drawing, and anime. Julie has also been accepted at the University of Hawai’i and received the UH Heart of a Lion Scholarship.

On top of her academics and figuring out college admissions, Julie also brought her enthusiasm to bear for the Kapi’olani hospital. Julie served as the face of Kapi’olani as their miracle child from 2016-2017. She also participates in Extra Life, giving back to the hospital that helped her all those years ago. If you’d like to support her efforts, you can find her fundraising page here.

However, Julie doesn’t fight alone for the kids of Kapi’olani. Hundreds of people work to raise money for Kapi’olani every year. Among them, Extra Life Ambassador Sevadus works tirelessly to help the children who come through Kapi’olani’s doors every day. Sevadus streams as part of the Mindcrack Team to raise money for Kapi’olani. The amount of good going on in Hawai’i for its hospitals is simply breath-taking.

Please join Extra Life in making a difference for the kids and families who seek help at your local children’s hospital.