Incredible Joy in Mobility

Helping Hand -- With the help of Tarannang, Taaren and this lady's daughter, she is lifted in to her new wheelchair.... the first time in a wheelchair ever.

Helping Hand — With the help of Tarannang, Taaren and this lady’s daughter, she is lifted in to her new wheelchair…. the first time in a wheelchair ever.

Imagine being unable to walk and having to remain on a woven mat on the floor of your modest grass house 24 hours a day, year after year, with no hope of mobility and relying on family members to lift you to wash and change your clothes.

Then imagine the joy of receiving a wheelchair.

Earlier this year, we at Pacific Islands Medical Aid received 49 wheelchairs as a gift from Joni and Friends, Wheelchairs for the World,  which we have now been able to distribute to the very needy on three remote islands in the central Pacific:  Teraina, Tabuaeran and Kiritimati…. Changing the lives of all who received them.

Helping Hand -- With the help of Tarannang, Taaren and this lady's daughter, she is lifted in to her new wheelchair.... the first time in a wheelchair ever.

Helping Hand — With the help of Tarannang, Taaren and this lady’s daughter, she is lifted in to her new wheelchair…. the first time in a wheelchair ever.

“It’s the joy in one’s face once becoming mobile that melts your heart,” says PIMA president Carlton Smith. After crying for some time, one women who just received her wheelchair said to all of us.. ‘I can now go to church.’

Joni and Friends arranged for us to receive the reconditioned wheelchairs from the state’s correctional facility in Nashville, Tennessee, where inmates made sure each wheelchair was sound.  They asked only that we send to the inmates photos of some of the recipients… which we have done. Some of those photos appear here in our newsletter this month.

Very special needs child -- This little girl from Ronton Village on Christmas Island cannot walk or control her arms or legs... but now has a way to get around with a very special top-of-the-line wheelchair.  Her parents are so proud, and so appreciative.

Very special needs child — This little girl from Ronton Village on Christmas Island cannot walk or control her arms or legs… but now has a way to get around with a very special top-of-the-line wheelchair. Her parents are so proud, and so appreciative.

Getting the wheelchairs to Kiritimati  (Christmas Island) was not the biggest challenge because we were able to transport them on a once-a-month air cargo flight from Honolulu. We then needed to send some of them to the outer islands by the sailing vessel Kwai, a ten-day round trip.

Nurses in each village on all three islands prioritized the needs and made sure that each wheelchair went to the most needy. Then, the wheelchairs were distributed by Senior Nurse Tarannang Iaramako  and medical officer Taaren Toanikai, both from Christmas Island. Taaren accompanied and distributed the wheelchairs in the outer islands to make sure they got in to the right hands.

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Beginning the task — Taaren, at left, and Tarannang begin the task of making sure that only the most needy receive the wheelchairs. “They did a wonderful job,” says PIMA president Carlton Smith.

In Taaren’s report, he says “ the people are very happy to have this perfect gift. I have a good time with them and share what a wonderful gift. They also told me that they going to keep and look carefully of it.”

Marvin’s Life Saved, Thanks To Big Collaborative Effort

Hole in Heart -- Without surgery to patch a hole in Marvin's heart, doctors said he probably wouldn't live for more than a year or so. With successful surgery at Children's Medical Center in Dallas, he can now expect a full, normal life.

Hole in Heart — Without surgery to patch a hole in Marvin’s heart, doctors said he probably wouldn’t live for more than a year or so. With successful surgery at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, he can now expect a full, normal life.

When little two-year-old Marvin Naanai was brought by his mother to see volunteer cardiologist Dr. Steven Compton on Christmas Island in Kiribati four months ago, it was apparent that Marvin had a hole in his heart and needed urgent cardiac surgery.

He was listless and weak. Without surgery, Marvin was not expected to live for more than a year or two. His condition was described as ventricular septal defect (VSD).

With the help of the newly-formed HeartGift Dallas and it’s president, Barbara Johnson, we at Pacific Islands Medical Aid were able to get Marvin accepted for surgery at Childrens Medical Center in Dallas.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Honolulu helped a great deal by granting  U.S. Visa waivers to Marvin and his mother so he could have life-saving surgery in the United States. Dr. Kristine Guleserian, MD, director of cardiac transplantation at Childrens, a part of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, agreed to do the surgery and HeartGift organized accommodations for Marvin and his mother.

Mended Heart -- Little 2-year-old Marvin Naanai and his mother are preparing to go back to Kiribati after surgeons at Childrens Medical Center in Dallas repaired the hole in his heart... and gave him new life!

Mended Heart — Little 2-year-old Marvin Naanai and his mother are preparing to go back to Kiribati after surgeons at Childrens Medical Center in Dallas repaired the hole in his heart… and gave him new life!

With the help of Mending Kids International in Burbank, California, we at PIMA took care of  transportation from Christmas Island to Honolulu and onward to Dallas, Texas with the aid of American Airlines Miles for Kids program.

Marvin’s surgery was judged a great success and physicians now expect that he will have a full, normal life.

It was a collaborative effort, to be sure, and we are pleased that another child from the Central Pacific will be able to return home to a full, healthy life.