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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 25, 2003

Sign-waver hit by truck emerges from coma

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer

From the beginning, the Mapu family had been told to prepare for the worst, that their son Daniel would never recover from the injuries suffered when he was hit by a pickup truck on Aug. 25.

Maryann and Simi Mapu of La'ie keep a constant vigil at The Queen's Medical Center by the bedside of their son Daniel, 21, who was struck Aug. 25 by a truck while he was sign-waving in a campaign against drug abuse.

Family and friends of Daniel Mapu have put together this poster of the former Kahuku High School football star who loved to perform at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Photos by Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

And there came a point in Daniel's struggle when his father, Simi, was ready to let him go.

But Simi Mapu's other six children wouldn't let him.

On Monday, their hope and faith were rewarded when Daniel emerged from a coma.

He isn't speaking or moving his arms or legs, and now doctors fear that serious brain injuries will keep Daniel from living a full life.

But his family believes that their prayers have been answered — and that even more miracles lie ahead.

"There's too many positive signs to have our hopes dashed," said Simi Mapu, a Honolulu Police Department detective.

Daniel Mapu, 21, of La'ie, was taking part in an anti-drug sign-waving campaign in Ka'a'awa when a pickup truck came weaving down Kamehameha Highway. The line of sign-wavers on the roadside scattered, but Daniel was unable to get out of the way. He was hit by the truck, and as he lay on the road, he was struck by a second vehicle. Daniel was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Police arrested the driver of the truck, but the investigation of the accident continues.

In the month since, Daniel has overcome one obstacle after another, including a severe case of pneumonia. Then came this week's dramatic turn.

Through it all, his parents have been sustained by a steady stream of support from family, friends, even strangers. And their faith.

Foremost among them were Daniel's brothers and sisters.

They were steadfast in their faith, said Maryann Mapu, their mother. They became the parents' teachers, reinforcing their belief in their Mormon faith, she said.

"Our children have been amazing," Maryann Mapu said. "They are the ones that strengthened us. So we hold on to that faith and drew strength from them, until this day. They never wavered."

Yesterday, gathered The Queen's Medical Center where they have kept vigil around the clock, Daniel's parents talked through alternating tears of joy and sadness about their second-youngest child. They told how the former Kahuku High football star always made everyone laugh. They spoke of his determination, his willingness to help others and his strong faith.

His parents said he's a comedian. He takes after his father, his mother said. He's loving and good-looking, taking after his mother, his father said.

They said their son loves hanging out with his friends and eating L&L chicken katsu. He was planning to go to college and fulfill a dream to play college football. He was a dancer at the Polynesian Cultural Center and loved to perform and train new dancers, according to Leonard Ah Mu, Daniel's supervisor.

"You can really feel the mana, that spirit, you can see it coming from him," Ah Mu said. "When he performs, you can tell he's performing because he loves to perform."

He attended religious services regularly and just returned from a two-year Mormon mission. Often, he would rest his head on his mother's shoulder, a loving gesture that others noticed as an especially close bond between mother and son.

And Daniel always looked out for his younger brother, J.T., a sophomore on the University of Tennessee football team. J.T. has dedicated this season to Daniel.

Others who know Daniel talked about his ability to make others laugh, his spirit and helpful nature.

T.C. Thompson, 22, and a friend of Daniel's since kindergarten, said everyone called Daniel "Maps." Maps was the crazy one, always livening up the group with his funny antics, Thompson said.

He would do things others wouldn't, like teasing his friends and embarrassing them by being loud when he shouldn't, then acting innocent. But his jokes were good-natured, and he would often make fun of himself, Thompson said.

The slow recovery has his friends worried, but Thompson said they are being strong for Maps. One has even set up a Web site, danielmapu.com, chronicling Daniel's treatment and recovery. The latest entry, titled "breaking news," was filed Tuesday with the headline "Daniel emerged from coma!" written by brother Jimmy.

"We're disappointed that he's not better already and wishing we could see him and get our laughs back," Thompson said.

Daniel's injuries have brought an outpouring of support. Friends have brought food so the family never goes hungry. Letters, e-mails and a string of visitors have offered prayers and good wishes.

Some members of their church — even people who don't know him — have fasted and prayed for Daniel. Support from the community, police, hospital workers and friends, as well as other relatives, has overwhelmed the family members, who want to say thanks.

"Especially to the hospital, my HPD brothers, people from the Polynesian Cultural Center," said Simi Mapu holding back tears. "The nurses are his guardian angels."

Those nurses have arranged their schedule so the same ones care for Daniel all the time, Simi Mapu said. He's especially touched by Maureen Crowley, who shampoos Daniel's hair, and Theresa Sawchuk, who gave Daniel a small velvet box with three tiny angels inside.

"The nurses are the ones telling us not to give up hope no matter what the science says," he said.

At the hospital, the family has fallen into a routine of care. While there they play his favorite music, including spiritual songs, Polynesian numbers and popular recordings. They read him letters and e-mails and talk to him.

Although his eyes are open, Daniel is not talking or able to move his arms and legs. But he communicates with his eyes, and his father has noticed that he has three kinds of looks.

The first is a faraway look, more of a long gaze.

A second general look worries his father. He interprets it as 'I'm tired. I had enough.' "

But the third offers the most encouragement.

"The look that gets me all up again is 'Dad, I'm still here. Please don't give up on me.'

"I love my boy. We all do."

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.