Rina: We met in 2009 at the Punahou Carnival. Since that night we were just inseparable. We started doing everything together from there. We both decided to go vegan together. We liked how we felt so we stuck with it and from there we kind of like made more lifestyle changes and that’s when we wanted to like move to Hilo and live a more simple life, try to like grow our own food. Try to get into the homesteading thing. Michael was very handsome, very silly and caring. It’s just I could go on and on about Michael honestly. Well me and Michael always felt like we were like twin flames. We always wanted to be together, you know like we chose to do things together. We loved hiking, being outdoors, going to the beach, surfing. Just doing anything together yeah.
Rina: I just remember that morning, he was driving me to work. He had the day off, we were going to Hilo Town from Laupahoehoe and there was a pickup truck that was in front of our car. There was a tractor-trailer truck that was also coming up from the opposite direction. The pickup truck ended up sideswiping the big container truck which then caused a chain reaction and the big container truck ended up losing control and that’s when I told from the officials that we were hit like head-on from the big semi. I was taken by the ambulance. Michael had to be extricated by the firefighters and the chopper had to actually get him out of there. I was pretty in shock cause I didn’t know where I was and the first thing I asked the doctors was you know “where’s my husband?” And I was told they were just trying to calm me down, they were explaining to me the situation and what had happened. They told me that he was in the other room. A doctor came in and told me that they had to medivac him over to Oahu so right then and there I kind of knew that the situation was pretty like really bad. Most of his injuries were like yeah brain injuries traumatic brain injuries so it was really very complicated. A lot of it was kind of hard to understand and process but the doctors were doing their best to kind of every day tell me what was going on. I was there day and night sleeping over there and kind of you know I was hoping that he was going to progress but it was kind of going in the opposite direction and that’s you know when I had to make that hard decision.
Rina: About a week in like when I was in the hospital, my dad mentioned to me about Leavitt Yamane and Soldner because you know the medical bills were just pilling up and I knew that it was something that I couldn’t take care of in my whole life so he told me to give them a call to see if they could help.
Nicole Kalakau: When you’re in your 20s and you lose the love of your life that you’ve only been married to for a few years what you’re losing is your dream of building a life.
Rina: Leavitt Yamane and Soldner and their staff I felt they were very professional of course, but at the same time they always treated me like family. They genuinely care about me I feel and like family, they look out for your best interest.
Rina: Very different for me going through life without him especially in the beginning because I was so used to having him there. Like I said especially since we did everything together and then to have that and go to doing everything by myself. It was just it was very hard. I felt very lonely you know, but my family and my friends were always there for me to give me support and the comfort I needed.
Nicole Kalakau: Anytime I spoke to Rina all she could focus on was the positive future that she had ahead of her and the things that Michael would want for her. And to me that type of resilience is amazing and really inspiring.
Rina: I’m doing much better now. I definitely healed a lot more from like the first year. Something that Michael definitely taught me lessons like to stay present so I’m trying not to live in the past nor the future. I’m just trying to be here in the moment. Yeah that’s definitely helped me a lot.
Rina: Michael was very passionate about life, he made everyday count I feel. I’m trying to be that strong girl for him every day.