By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer
HAU'ULA — Daniel Mapu has come home from the hospital at last.
Mapu was critically injured two years ago when a truck and a van hit him in Ka'a'awa while he was sign-waving along the highway in an anti-drug campaign. The young man, once a vibrant Polynesian dancer with dreams of attending college, has not fully recovered. Brain injuries have left him speechless and unable to walk on his own.
He is 23 years old. Mapu's family has revamped their lives completely to provide round-the-clock care that they say they gladly do, thankful that he is alive and with them.
Mapu and about 20 people were demonstrating against crystal methamphetamine use in Ka'a'awa on Aug. 25, 2003, when a truck weaving down Kamehameha Highway hit him, knocking him into the path of an oncoming van.
Hundreds of people rallied around the family, sending messages of love from around the world and raising money to cover some of the cost of his medical care. A documentary about ice use in Hawai'i was dedicated to him.
Police have closed the investigation of the accident and sent the reports to the prosecuting attorney's office, which has decided not to pursue the case because of insufficient evidence, said spokesman Jim Fulton.
The Hau'ula family has sued the drivers in the face of mounting bills and in anticipation of having to provide for Mapu for the rest of his life. Their electric bill alone can reach $400 a month because Daniel's room must be air conditioned and his laundry dried by machine. And although members of their church built a specialized room equipped with a hospital bed, oversized shower and double doors onto the home, the house is not theirs.
They are uncomfortable with filing the lawsuit and don't want to burden anyone, said Maryann Mapu, Daniel's mother.
"We don't have any guile or bitterness toward whoever," Maryann Mapu said. "You can't change the course," she added, leaving the rest unsaid.
Daniel has been home for a month and his family has developed a routine for his care, involving at least six adults, some of whom work outside jobs and then put in a shift at home so Daniel has someone at his side at all times.
Taking shifts are Daniel's parents Maryann and Simi Mapu; his sister, Ane, and brother Jimmy Mapu; grandmother Ane Ah You Pili; and an aunt, Nellie Pili. It's a labor of love and joy, stress and fear for the family, said Maryann Mapu.
The fear comes with seizures that were handled by the staff when Daniel was in the hospital, she said. Now they must face the attacks without professional help, Maryann Mapu said.
"It's always scary — you never know what might happen," she said after dealing with a recent attack. "I always have a fear of losing him."
The family focuses on Daniel's care, and increasing his speech and mobility, Maryann Mapu said. They stretch him daily, moving his arms and legs to keep him flexible and have him exercise by kicking or catching a ball. They work on his speech, talking to him, playing with him and reveling in each small accomplishment.
Having Daniel at home rather than at a hospital has given Maryann Mapu more time to do the things she loves like cooking and sewing, and she was able to begin working part time again, she said. And although the family was close, it's brought them even closer, Maryann Mapu said. But there are moments when they get on each others nerves, she said, laughing at the thought.
Struggling to describe the joy and happiness of having Daniel home and alive, Maryann Mapu said, "He gives us a certain peace. He's really calming."
Ane Pili, Daniel's grandmother, said she prays for the day he can walk and talk again. Although her home is in Samoa, Pili, 67, said she stays to help ease some of her daughter's burden.
"I like to see him talk more than anything," she said, "to let us know what's inside him, what he wants us to do for him. If he can talk, that's good enough."
Although a specialist has given the family little hope about Daniel's recovery, they refuse to accept the prognosis, said Jimmy Mapu, because they see the progress and believe Daniel can get better.
For instance when trying to help him talk, they repeat a word over and over again until Daniel copies them, Jimmy said, adding that some nurses thought this wasn't a sign of cognitive connection but just Daniel mimicking sounds. But one day when Maryann Mapu was trying to get Daniel to say Jonathan, repeating his brother's name over and over, she finally asked who is this while pointing to Jonathan's picture.
"He said 'brother,' " Jimmy Mapu said. "That told us he knows what's going on, he just can't talk. We have real conversations with him. You just gotta ask the questions in a 'yes' or 'no' form."
Daniel has learned to raise his eyebrows for yes and shake his head for no. He can also say "yes" and "love you, Nom."
Caring for his brother isn't easy, and Jimmy Mapu said his mother and sister carry the load. When family members are not working, they are together in Daniel's room getting to know each other better, he said.
The accident has changed the lives of everyone caring for Daniel, Jimmy Mapu said. Simi Mapu, a police officer, is working overtime almost every day. Maryann quit her job as program manager for an Early Start program and recently returned to Brigham Young University-Hawai'i to teach part time. Jimmy deferred law school, Ane works only part time as a teacher, and grandmother Ane put her church mission on hold.
On the second anniversary of the accident, the family talked about the good and bad things that resulted, Jimmy Mapu said.
"We couldn't list any bad things," he said.
Reach Eloise Aguiar at email@example.com.