HONOLULU (KHON2) — A rare evening in the snow turned into a nightmare after then 23-year-old Pua Wong slid down the icy slopes of Mauna Kea and crashed into rocks.
Her family watched the entire incident and called 911.
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Pua suffered critical injuries, including one to her head.
She was medevaced to Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu on January 29 where she was placed in a medically induced coma.
Right before she was medevaced to Queen’s, her boyfriend, Kawika Roman, remembered being told Pua had scored a three, the lowest possible number on the Glasgow Coma Scale. He said first responders told him it didn’t look good.
Roman would fly to her side a few days later and be with Pua every chance he could, but due to coronavirus safety measures, only one person was allowed in the room at a time, and he would alternate with her mom, dad and family.
“I don’t remember the accident,” Pua said. “But since I’ve been at the hospital, I was looking at my phone and I saw pictures. So I know who I was with, but I don’t remember the accident.”
Before the accident, Wong was studying for medical school, loved surfing and was very active.
She stayed in a medically induced coma for two weeks before being transferred to Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center where she continued to undergo multiple surgeries.
Nine weeks later, a metal rod helps her stand, in place of her tibia, and she has metal in her left arm and pins holding her wrist together.
“I also fractured my clavicles and my scapulas and then my head of course, the traumatic head injury,” Pua continued.
In mid-February, she was trying to talk but didn’t know the date or why she was in the hospital, and she was asking where her boyfriend was.
“They call it a diffuse axonal injury,” Roman explained. “So pretty much when her brain shook, it kind of destroyed a bunch of these nerve cells.”
He was told by doctors it was basically like a baby learning to swallow, talk and walk.
“And with an injury like that, those nerve cells that allow her to do those things were sheared and destroyed,” he continued. “So she kind of has to learn how to walk, talk — everything is pretty much like she was a baby, like someone pressed the restart button.”
In January, KHON2 interviewed Roman who said his girlfriend was a strong person and would recover quickly. He was right, and she continues improving at a fast rate.
By Valentine’s Day, Pua’s birthday, her pronunciation was improving thanks to help from a speech therapist.
By March 23, she was able to walk on her own.
“The doctors are saying that she’s progressing faster than normal,” Roman said.
Wong said she hopes her insurance approves further treatment at a center in California that specializes in traumatic brain injuries.
“My recovery time should be within six months for optimal recovery, and right now, I’m on month three, so hopefully I can get approved to go to CNS soon, and then it will allow me to pursue goals that I set for myself previously, like attending medical school,” she said.
Wong said she still loves the snow but said she will “make smarter decisions” next time.
“It’s kind of a miracle,” Roman said. “I’m just happy she’s alive.”
Wong started crying when she was thanking all the people who helped bring her down Mauna Kea, to all the people who helped her and prayed for her.