The Healing Hub
Rebuilding the lives of those with physical and cognitive challenges has been the aim of Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific since 1953.
This year is full of milestones for Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific, the only acute-care rehabilitation center in the state. It’s simultaneously celebrating the 70th anniversary of its establishment and the 25th anniversary of The Joy of Food & Wine fundraiser.
Celebrations, it seems, are second nature for the hospital, albeit not in a flashy, confetti-filled kind of way. Whether it’s a stroke patient regaining movement in their fingers or a car crash survivor taking their first steps since the accident, the folks at REHAB witness triumphs every single day. While reaching the 70-year mark is a tremendous achievement, the true measure of success lies in the number of patients REHAB heals and sends back home to their ‘ohana.
Established in 1953, REHAB, which now boasts three locations on O‘ahu and one on Hawai‘i island, provides inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities. It emerged out of the World War II era, when soldiers were returning in poor condition. Over the years, REHAB expanded its services to support patients suffering from strokes, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, complex orthopedic problems and chronic pain, among other maladies.
REHAB’s services encompass physical therapy (teaching new techniques to address functional limitations), occupational therapy (relearning daily activities like eating, bathing and getting dressed), speech therapy (aiding with cognition, communication and swallowing disorders) and recreational therapy (getting back in the community and enjoying activities again). The array of programs, meanwhile, run the gamut from cancer rehabilitation and driving courses to creative arts.
It goes without saying that those entering REHAB are in a severe and vulnerable state. They seek solutions, comfort and healing.
Honolulu resident Tyler Tokioka experienced this firsthand. Prior to his stint at REHAB, Tokioka, the chairman of a local insurance company and a member of more than a dozen nonprofit boards, had little free time.
It all came to a screeching halt when he suffered from a stroke that left him unable to walk and impaired one side of his body.
After 14 days of inpatient care, he was released and continued treatment at Nu‘uanu Outpatient Clinic, where he participated in physical and occupational therapy and began neuro-acupuncture sessions.
With support from the dedicated and highly efficient staff, state-of-the-art equipment and his own optimism, Tokioka regained his balance and ability to walk, while uplifting fellow REHAB patients along the way.
“When I think about what had the greatest impact on me, it was really the people. The nurses, the physical therapists, the occupational therapists, all of them have so much attention and care for the patient,” states Tokioka in REHAB’s newsletter REACH. “They’re going to push you to that point where you feel like you can’t go that next step, but just keep pushing yourself. They’re getting you to be as strong as possible so that when you do leave the hospital, you’re in a far better place than you started.”
Tokioka has since returned to work and continues his active role in the community. He credits REHAB for this real-life miracle.
“Now that I’ve gone through my stroke, I know that in the event that something happens to me again … I know what REHAB does and what they can do,” he states. “I think that’s the greatest comfort that you can have; in a time of need there is a place you can go to with services to help (you) get better.”
Tokioka is just one of thousands of patients REHAB serves annually. They are the driving force for Janice Luke Loo and Michael W. Perry, who do what they can to keep the hospital running.
“REHAB provides a vital service to people from all walks of life here in our community and the Pacific Basin to help them heal,” says Luke Loo, who serves on the hospital and REHAB
Hospital of the Pacific Foundation’s board of directors. “It is the only freestanding rehabilitation hospital, with an incredibly dedicated and determined staff. At some time or another, everyone either needs rehab or knows of someone who does, and REHAB is a tremendous resource for care.
“To witness patients come in on an ambulance and leave much stronger is nothing short of remarkable, inspiring and energizing,” she adds.
At the upcoming The Joy of Food & Wine event, taking place Oct. 6 at Halekulani Hotel, Luke Loo and Perry, emeritus chairman of the hospital’s board, will be honored for their decades of commitment to REHAB. While the tribute is more than well deserved, of course these humble humanitarians don’t see it that way.
“The real people who should be honored are the therapists at REHAB who work tirelessly on behalf of their patients, and the patients themselves, who face their challenges with courage, resilience and determination. Now those are the real heroes of this story,” says Luke Loo.
“It’s been a privilege and a pleasure,” she adds about her time with the hospital. “REHAB has touched the lives of so many people in our community for many years. I am always moved when people approach me with stories of how REHAB helped their parents, loved ones or friends, which inspired me to volunteer all these years.”
A retired Punahou School English teacher, Luke Loo is a force in the local community. A member of a handful of local organizations, she’s been involved with REHAB since 1990, following a brief chat with former REHAB Foundation president Lynette Yuriko “Ko” Miyataki and board member Jim Wo.
“They promised my involvement would be both fun and fulfilling,” she recalls. “Their enthusiasm and dedication were so convincing (that) I said I’d join for a three-year term — and that was 33 years ago!
“To witness the dedication and determination of the REHAB therapists and staff to improve the lives of people affected by life-altering illnesses or accidents, and to see how successfully REHAB could truly rebuild lives, physically and with a more optimistic outlook on life, was truly inspiring.”
Perry, meanwhile, is the host of KSSK’s Perry & the Posse morning show and has been with REHAB since 1986 when the hospital’s former president Stuart Ho — who Perry calls “one of the founding fathers” — recruited him to expand REHAB Foundation (the hospital’s nonprofit).
“A facility like ours, and many other hospitals, cannot make it on operating income,” he explains. “There has to be help from the community: A foundation. With the help of Jan, Laurie (Tom), and the great board and staff, we hit our mark as a $10 million foundation on schedule.”
When asked why he’s stayed involved all these years, Perry says, “It’s addicting; the stories, the patient’s lives that are changed. I truly enjoyed sitting down to lunch with a group of donors — some former patients, some family of former patients, others with no personal connection other than their admiration for the mission. The heartfelt individual stories were incredible, and these were people who contributed what they could — any amount — to help REHAB. Because they believed in our mission: Rebuilding lives.”
REHAB chairman Glenn Sexton chimes in, “The REHAB Hospital of the Pacific fulfills a vital role in our community, often not well understood until an individual or a loved one has a debilitating need. For decades, Mike and Jan have done so much to increase the awareness and support of the hospital in our community. Their legacy will be lasting.”
In the year of celebrations, The Joy of Food & Wine fundraiser will be nothing short of spectacular. The event will feature live and silent auctions, heartfelt hospital stories, entertainment, and culinary delights from chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alexandre Trancher of La Mer. Funds benefit REHAB Foundation, which supports patients in need of financial assistance, facility renovations, innovative equipment, programs and more. (Visit rehabhospital.org for more information.)
“Most of the people return year after year, so it’s kind of like a homecoming. Everyone is happy to see each other,” says Dr. Laurie Tom, an endocrinologist who has been at the helm of the fundraiser since 1998.
“For me, it’s gratifying to see the community come together. In Hawai‘i, people are known for being generous and we see that with our REHAB supporters. Every year it’s like the best dinner ever. People walk away happy. How can you not be happy after having good food and wine?”
It doesn’t matter if they’re in ball gowns and tuxedos or scrubs and white coats, the folks at REHAB serve the community day in and day out, just as they’ve done for the past 70 years.