Strength in Numbers


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Zeila, with help from friends, family and the team at Kapi‘olani Medical Center, is adjusting to her new life. She avoids UV exposure and slows down when she’s tired. “She’s learned to be self-aware,” says mom Jessica.

For Jessica MacLachlan, it was the little details–a bloating in her daughters stomach, some puffiness under her eyes-that caught her attention. “When I noticed her not playing as much as she normally would at a pool party and her appetite slightly decreasing, we decided to get her checked out by her pediatrician, Dr. Tanaka,” Jessica recalls. “She told us we’d better get Zeila to the hospital that same day.”

The 10-year-old budding ballerina who also loves sleepovers with her friends, helping her parents cook, riding bikes her big with big sister Ava, drawing and play- ing with Legos was soon diagnosed with lupus.

Jessica explains that navigating their way through Zeila’s treatment has been a long journey. Not only are there many medicines (IV, oral meds that don’t taste so good), there are the many “pokes,” that she has to endure. “Now, it’s twice a month. She still doesn’t like ‘pokes,’ but takes it like a champ.”

The family is grateful that Zeila’s body reacted well to the medicines and treatment, with few side effects.

Zeila now spends one weekend a month in the hospital. “[It] isn’t the most enjoyable way to spend the weekend, but in a way, it feels like visiting family for the weekend,” Jessica says.

Kapi‘olani Medical Center’s staff and facilities have been key to helping Zeila adjust to treatment. Jessica credits every- one from Nena, one of the housekeepers who would stop in each morning, to Megan at Child Life Services.

“The whole team and the nurse aides in the Wilcox Unit were outstanding!” Jessica says. “They were all so caring, helpful and compassionate towards us. They always answered all our questions and addressed any concerns we had.”

Dash the dietician helped the family navigate Zeila’s new renal diet and specialists such as nephrologists Dr. Ingraham and Dr. Lau, along with her rheumatologist Dr. Yamamoto checked in on their patient often. “[Dr. Yamamoto] was so dedicated to building a relationship with us and of course getting Zeila better at the same time. I think that’s really special; not to just have doctors who do the work, but doctors who really care about the entire family.”

Jessica credits the doctors for keeping them informed of each day’s plan, and, while it took some convincing to try it out, Zeila enjoyed the Brain Station with Ms. Shay. There, she learned about Queen Kapi‘olani, and participated in other fun activities.

Zeila’s new life involves monitoring her exposure to UV rays and ensuring she doesn’t get too fatigued. (“I never realized how hard it was to find a one-piece swimsuit for a 10-year-old girl who already has her own sense of style!”)

“Having a child with chronic illness is stressful and scary … but I can hon- estly say there wasn’t a time where I was worried about the care Zeila was receiving,” Jessica says. “…To have her care go beyond just test and procedures, into programs, services and people that somehow find a way to add laughter, excitement and joy in such a stressful, and sometimes dark, moment in our lives if more than we could ask for. We’re all so grateful to every single person at Kapi‘olani Medical Center for treating not only Zeila with care and compassion by my daughter, husband and myself included.”

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