The Nauka's - A Story of Family and Healing

In a moment, Pono Nauka’s life changed completely. On a routine drive through Kakaako, Pono’s vehicle was violently struck by an out of control driver. The next thing Pono remembered, he was on his back, looking up at the sky as paramedics loaded him into an ambulance. He couldn’t have known it at that moment, but the road ahead would be long and full of challenging mental and physical demands.

In the weeks and months that followed, Pono went through intensive care and numerous surgeries. Pono shared, “I had a shattered pelvis, some internal bleeding, internal damage, compression fractures in my spine, a concussion, broken ribs, general cuts and bruises and glass in places.” After finally reaching stable condition, Pono needed inpatient therapy. When he arrived at REHAB Hospital of the Pacific, one thing was certain - Pono was determined to get back to his family.

The Naukas are a close family. Pono and Ululani Nauka are Kamehameha Schools graduates and high school sweethearts. At the time of the accident, the Naukas’ older son, Kainalu was in high school, their younger son, Kahiau was in middle school, and their daughter, Brianne, was in her final year of college, soon to become the family’s first college graduate. When talking with Pono and Ululani about their children, you can see their faces fill with pride! When he came to REHAB, Pono made it his goal to be walking when he attended Brianne’s graduation ceremony. However, Pono and Ululani soon realized that this goal wouldn’t be an easy journey and it would take the entire family’s support and involvement to achieve.

“It’s funny how much you take for granted in your everyday life - being able to drive yourself, or use the restroom, take a shower, or go for a walk,” says Pono. “So anytime I was able to hit those milestones, it kind of became a really emotional experience. I distinctly remember being able to stand up in the shower for the first time and I started crying. It had been, at that point, months since I stood up.” 

It wasn’t just Pono who had to work to get life back to normalcy. For the Naukas, it was truly a whole family effort. Ululani and Pono’s mother worked with REHAB staff to practice car transfers and learn how to assist Pono in day to day life. There were a lot of things that changed for the kids, too, after Pono’s accident. When reflecting on the experience, Pono and Ululani shared that they realized it made their kids grow up faster, they took on a lot of responsibilities that they wouldn’t have had to otherwise.

During the weeks that REHAB became Pono’s temporary home, the REHAB courtyard became something of a sanctuary for the family. “We could take him outside,” Brianne shared, “It was really nice. And it’s so pretty here that it made life seem a little more normal. And that was a relief because when you’re spending weeks in a hospital, you kind of start to forget what normal is like.”

Pono and his family worked hard to get back to their life together. After a lot of work and four months in a wheelchair, Pono achieved his goal and he did walk at his daughter’s graduation, making the day an even more special milestone for the Naukas. The Nauka family shared that one of the greatest takeaways from their journey after Pono’s accident is to never take the little things for granted. The family is all the more aware of just how precious their time together is and even now, with almost all their children grown, they have standing Sunday family dinners every week.

“I couldn’t imagine being without him,” Ululani says, “Looking back at it, I’m grateful for every day that he pushed so hard to make sure he got home to us.”