Waikele Teenager Named ‘Cham­pion’

MidWeek Islander (West Oahu) - - Front Page - By CHRISTINA O’CON­NOR

Dozens gath­ered at JW Mar­riott Ihi­lani at Ko Olina Re­sort and Spa May 14 to wel­come the guest of honor: 16-year-old Waikele res­i­dent Kee­gan Pas­sos, who re­cently was named Hawaii’s “Cham­pion” for Chil­dren’s Mir­a­cle Net­work’s Cham­pi­ons Across Amer­ica pro­gram.

The pro­gram se­lects one child from each state, rec­og­niz­ing those who have over­come health chal­lenges to ac­com­plish great things.

Kee­gan has spent count­less hours at Ka­pi­olani Med­i­cal Cen­ter for Women and Chil­dren un­der­go­ing a slew of surg­eries to treat his rare heart con­di­tion, tetral­ogy of Fal­lot with pul­monary atre­sia, which he has had since birth. He has had three open-heart surg­eries, nu­mer­ous bal­loon an­gio­plas­ties and two pace­maker in­stal­la­tions.

Through all of this, he has used his ex­pe­ri­ences to help other kids who face sim­i­lar chal­lenges by men­tor­ing young pa­tients with heart con­di­tions through the sup­port group Kar­diac Kids.

“We’re so proud of Kee­gan and his fam­ily,” said

Ka­pi­olani Med­i­cal Cen­ter CEO Martha Smith dur­ing the cer­e­mony.

Kee­gan, along with his mother, Jul­lie, and younger sis­ter Kaitlin (his fa­ther, Jay, was watch­ing nearby from the front row), stood to ad­dress the crowd. They needs of chil­dren with heart con­di­tions.

“I prom­ise to do my best to rep­re­sent Hawaii,” Kee­gan told the au­di­ence.

When he first found out that he had won this ti­tle, Kee­gan was “re­ally ex­cited.”

“Af­ter that, I went to my room and blasted the mu­sic ar­rive at the hospi­tal to get ready to face their surgery.

“The (men­tors) helped me through stuff, and they sup­ported me,” Kee­gan re­called. “So I wanted to give back to kids like that too.

“I make them less ner­vous, and I make them laugh.”

“It just adds so much more when (the men­tors) can say, ‘I have been there and look at me now,’” Jul­lie added.

And where Kee­gan is now is noth­ing short of mirac­u­lous. He is small for his age. He can’t play sports. He is en­rolled at Waipahu High School, but re­ceives his school­ing at home or in the hospi­tal. He still has to un­dergo reg­u­lar med­i­cal pro­ce­dures. But other than that, Kee­gan is a nor­mal kid, his par­ents said.

Like most teens, he looks for­ward to hang­ing out with his friends (es­pe­cially when that means go­ing to Camp Tay­lor each year (a camp specif­i­cally for kids with heart dis­ease) and thinks about what he wants to do when he grows up. He has en­ter­tained ideas about be­com­ing a doc­tor, or per­haps a pho­tog­ra­pher. But his lat­est in­ter­est is ar­chi­tec­ture.

In con­junc­tion with his school cur­ricu­lum, Kee­gan is draft­ing and de­sign­ing build­ing plans for a new project that he calls Kee­gan’s Heart House. The house, which would be com­prised of eight rooms that hold up to seven people each, would pro­vide ac­com­mo­da­tions for pa­tients with heart con­di­tions and their fam­i­lies who are vis­it­ing Oahu for med­i­cal care. He is aim­ing to have a com­pleted draft of the build­ing by the time he grad­u­ates.

Un­like other, sim­i­lar homes, his de­sign takes ex­tended fam­i­lies into con­sid­er­a­tion. Other fa­cil­i­ties may have only space for the child and one par­ent, but the Heart House has space to ac­com­mo­date other rel­a­tives or friends who want to help the pa­tient. Plus, a hospi­tal bed in the room would be specif­i­cally con­structed for heart surgery pa­tients.

Kee­gan was in­spired to cre­ate Heart House af­ter see­ing what many of his hospi­tal friends were go­ing through. If they had to fly in from a neighbor is­land, they of­ten had nowhere to go while they waited for their ap­point­ment.

“He’s hav­ing the house here avail­able so that they can kick back, re­lax, sleep, rest, shower and let the kids play,” Jay said.

The Pas­sos like to be to­gether through all of Kee­gan’s pro­ce­dures, so they know the im­por­tance of a venue like this to fam­i­lies. (Kaitlin, 10, has been to all of Kee­gan’s doc­tor ap­point­ments.)

“We have all learned that fam­ily and friends sup­port the heal­ing,” Jul­lie said. “If you heal the soul, you can heal the body faster.”

With Kee­gan as this year’s Cham­pion, the whole fam­ily hopes to help oth­ers who face sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions.

“It is so ex­cit­ing be­cause for a full year, we can be in a po­si­tion to ac­tu­ally help other kids more,” Julie said. “There are kids like this every­where who need help.”

Jul­lie, Kee­gan, Jay and Kaitlin Pas­sos were hon­ored May 14 dur­ing the Chil­dren’s Mir­a­cle Net­work Cham­pion launch. Kee­gan, a 16-year-old Ka­pi­olani Med­i­cal Cen­ter pa­tient with a rare heart con­di­tion, was named this year’s state Cham­pion in the Cham­pi­ons Across Amer­ica pro­gram. Pho­tos by Lawrence Tabudlo, ltabudlo@mid­week.com.

Ka­pi­olani Med­i­cal Cen­ter CEO Martha Smith shared with the au­di­ence that she is ‘very proud’ of the Pas­sos fam­ily.

The au­di­ence cov­ered Kee­gan Pas­sos with lei fol­low­ing the Cham­pion launch at Ko Olina.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.