Lehua Park Cosma was inspired by her mother's courage and strength to spearhead an effort to establish this year the county's first rural community dialysis facility in Hana.
Her mother, Cecelia "Aunty Cece" Lonokahikini Roback Park, lived for more than 25 years with diabetes and started dialysis treatments in November 2004. To get her three-times-a-week dialysis sessions, Park and her husband, Andrew, would leave Hana at 1:30 or 2 a.m. to drive the long, narrow and twisting highway to Central Maui - and then return.
After years of lobbying politicians, officials and anyone else who'd listen, Cosma's goal of a Hana dialysis facility was finally realized in April when the facility, Hale Pomaika'i, was dedicated and opened. About 250 people, including Gov. Linda Lingle, took part in the facility's blessing.
Establishing a dialysis treatment facility in Hana wasn't easy. Skeptics said there weren't enough patients in the remote community to make it feasible. Then, a breakthrough came in 2008 when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid approved the communal dialysis facility, the first of its kind in the nation.
Then, a plantation-era residence that was found had to be renovated with new water and electrical systems, both needed for the dialysis machines.
The work was paid for through a $48,000 Maui County grant.
Hui Laulima O Hana has a 20-year lease on the property from the county, which manages the state-owned land. The hui pays $1 a year for use of the property.
While Cosma, the founder and president of Hui Laulima O Hana, was widely credited with being the driving force behind the new dialysis treatment facility, she pointed to her mother as her inspiration. Sadly, Park didn't enjoy the convenience of nearby dialysis treatment long. She died Dec. 21, following complications from a serious fall she had two weeks earlier. She was 67.
"To me, she leaves back a legacy. I'm so glad she got to live to see her dream come true," Cosma said. "I'm so proud of her."
Park never complained of coping with diabetes and considered it a blessing and a means to fight for fellow dialysis patients, Cosma said. "She accepted it as a gift and a way to end suffering for others who were in worse off shape."