Frontline workers battle coronavirus in 2020, help daughter fight cancer in 2021

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Two respiratory therapists with Hawaii ties were forced to put their personal lives on hold in 2020.

They were busy helping complete strangers battle COVID-19, and now 2021 is throwing them another curve ball. Their 3-year-old daughter is facing the fight of her life.

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The pandemic has made being together almost impossible for millions of families across the country.

“I think it’s been especially hard,” said respiratory therapist Cecilia Tran, “just because like, we haven’t been able to be together.”

The distance was not a choice for the Castaneras family.

Tran is a traveling respiratory therapist who helps those battling COVID-19 in different hospitals in the South.

“So day in and day out, we have been working full time as a respiratory therapist during this time,” Tran said.

Her husband, Kekoa Castaneras, has also been helping COVID-19 patients at The Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu.

“I work closely with the ICU,” Castaneras said. “Almost all of them end up on ventilators and life support machines.”

Both Castaneras and Tran sacrifice time away from their own daughter, Scarlett, to help others in need.

“I enjoy helping people,” Tran said. “You know, making sure that they’re, you know, they get back to their families okay.”

Their daughter started limping in February 2021. Castaneras and Tran were hoping it was just a bad infection, but the biopsy results were something out of every parents’ worst nightmare.

“I guess it was in early March,” Tran said. “And that’s when we found out that yes, she does have cancer, that she has osteosarcoma. That’s when it all kind of kicked in, and then that’s when we’re like, ‘okay, what is our next step or what are we going to do?'”

Scarlett is now being treated at St. Jude’s in Tennessee. She will need 32 weeks of chemotherapy, and that is just the beginning of her fight.

“Because of the pandemic, they only let one parent into the hospital all the time,” Castaneras said.

However, Castaneras is grateful that he can be with his two girls thanks in part to his Queen’s family in Hawaii. Some of his coworkers have even been donating paid time off to him.

Queen’s respiratory therapist Leighthan Luna said, “so that Kekoa can stay in Tennessee for as long as possible without having to worry about his job here, bills, any of that.”

Castaneras and Tran are just trying to stay strong for Scarlett.

“Just angry that like, you know that this could happen to somebody, or any child for that matter,” Tran said. “Or if like, you know if I could trade places with her I would.”

Click here to support Scarlett through GoFundMe.

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