This Courageous West Side Girl Is Hawaiʻi’s Child Health Champion

For years, Calen and Kainoa Friel raised money for Children’s Miracle Network through their family business, Uncle Lani’s Poi Mochi.

A percentage of their revenue from a stand at the Kapolei Walmart supported the non-profit, which is affiliated with Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women & Children. All proceeds go to help Hawaiʻi children — something that Calen and Kainoa always told customers with pride.

They never thought that their own child would one day benefit.

Five-year-old Haumea Friel was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency, a rare birth defect that stunts development of the legs. In Haumea’s case she was born with a short thigh bone and a non-functional hip joint in her right leg.

Since Haumea’s birth, Kapi‘olani doctors have worked to try to give her a useful limb. She has had multiple reconstructive hip surgeries, but was still living with pain when she tried to do the normal things kids want to.

Finally doctors, in consultation with Haumea’s family, decided to perform a special surgery called a rotationplasty.

The concept behind a rotationplasty is similar to that of a skin graft, or ligament replacement. In each of those cases, a patient’s functioning parts are used to replace parts that need repair.

For the rotationplasty, Haumea’s functioning knee and foot were removed and reattached, facing backward. Her knee joint takes the place of her hip joint, and her foot joint now functions as a knee. By attaching a prosthetic leg to her foot, Haumea can now run, climb, play sports — live a more regular kid life.

Haumea gave her life-changing prosthesis a name: “Sparkle.”

“Sparkle is my prosthetic leg that can help me walk and run and bounce; nothing can stop it,” she says.

Haumea’s story and her spirit — and the incredible Friel family that one Kapi‘olani staffer calls “the greatest support system I’ve ever seen” — have inspired everyone around her.

Haumea Rehab

In February, Children’s Miracle Network named Haumea as Hawaiʻi’s 2020 Champion for Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women & Children.

When I met Haumea and her mom at Uncle Lani’s Poi Mochi in Ka Makana Aliʻi — the week before coronavirus restrictions would’ve made such a meeting impossible — she acted like a regular kid. She was shy to be introduced to a stranger, snuggling close to Mom, and more interested in her coloring book than some random adult’s questions.

But she brightened up when her father Calen came into the room. Perhaps because of all they’ve endured, this is a family with a truly special connection.

In her role as Kapi‘olani CMN Champion, Haumea was supposed to travel to Orlando — she was especially excited to meet other kids with her rare condition. The pandemic has postponed that trip, as well as other personal appearances.

But, as of June, Haumea is appearing at the place where you could say her story first started.

Walmart is supporting Children’s Miracle Network and Kapoʻolani with a vigorous fundraising effort at all of their Hawaiʻi stores. At the Kapolei Supercenter, volunteers accept donations as you enter and exit, as well as at a table just inside the entrance. There’s also a life-size cutout of Haumea, with information on her story. Haumea recently stopped by Walmart Mililani for a socially distant visit to help thank cashiers and customers for giving to Kapi‘olani CMN.

The effort, called “Change Kids’ Health, Change The Future,” raises money primarily at the register, where customers and members can choose to round-up their total and donate the change, or donate $1 or more at checkout. In 2019, the campaign raised $336,338 for Kapi‘olani Medical Center.

This year’s register campaign runs from June 22 through July 19. Don’t forget to donate next time you’re at Walmart.

And you can support the Friel family by grabbing lunch at Uncle Lani’s Poi Mochi drive-through truck — they’re in the parking lot of Ka Makana Aliʻi, in the Macy’s wing, Wednesday-Sunday from 11am until they sell out of food.

Photos by Liz Uyehara / Hawaiʻi Pacific Health