After reading a story in Jupiter Courier, Florida’s top weekly news source, I felt compelled to share what I had read with our blog followers. It truly is a story of aloha, meaning it’s an example of love, kindness and gratitude. Whatever aloha may mean to you let this story stand as a representation of what aloha means to us.
Paradise Shave Ice is a unique shave ice truck in a southern Florida town called Jupiter. The owner, Lulu has put her own twist on classic Hawaii shave ice with gourmet toppings, and her menu includes tantalizing flavors like Reese’s, Birthday Cake, Key Lime Pie and Kona Sunset. These handcrafted, dessert-inspired ice indulgences were created through special circumstances. Lulu experiences happiness, laughter, a positive outlook on life and the gift of aloha each and every day through her business. Which are some of the best ways to battle life’s most serious obstacles.
Born with a birth defect that caused reflux, (where urine backs up into the kidneys), Lulu has been in and out of the hospital with high fevers and infections all of her life. She had her first double surgery at age 4 with a 50 percent survival rate, and as Lulu grew, severe kidney damage happened and caused both kidneys to atrophy (shrink) and fail.
By her early 20s, Lulu was also diagnosed with Addison’s Disease (a rare condition caused by the body attacking its adrenal glands). “It was a really tough time in my life. I was so sick and close to death many times,” Lulu describes. The most hopeful thing Lulu had to ‘look forward to’ was a kidney transplant, but undergoing dialysis was a major feat (9 hours a night, 7 nights a week) and the waiting game for a kidney donor (in the wake of a death) even more psychologically and spiritually exhausting.
Mid-way through life, Lulu met Jason-the love of her life- and the two wed and lived happily together in Kona, on the Big Island. Her best friend and rock, Jason knew that with the shortage of doctors in Hawaii, they would have to leave their beloved island and relocate to the mainland, in order for Lulu to receive the best treatment possible.
Jason and Lulu decided to move to Florida because Jason’s mother also lived there, and Lulu soon fell in love with the Jupiter community and its beach lifestyle. Here, Lulu began dialysis and spent much of her life in the hospital. Rather than become depressed about it though, Lulu chose to give back to society by ‘paying it forward’ and had her dog Cuda become certified to be part of a pilot program called Caring Canines in the Court System.
After many months, Lulu became heart sick for her spiritual home on the Big Island, so she and Jason decided to take a quick trip for rejuvenation. But Lulu chose not to tell her transplant coordinator she was leaving Florida for Hawaii. “If they knew I was going that far away and a kidney became available they wouldn’t call me,” Lulu said.
The possibility of receiving the call for a kidney donor while in Hawaii was very real, but it didn’t stop the couple from returning to their beloved Hawaii Island. In Kona, Lulu and Jason quickly began to unwind and relax, something they hadn’t allowed themselves to do for years. But just as Lulu had anticipated, the call came soon after they arrived in the Islands.
The doctor told Lulu a kidney had been donated, and she would need to be ready for surgery by 12 o’clock noon the next day. The mad dash to fly back to Florida began, but the universe provided complication after complication for Lulu and Jason. As soon as they received the call, they headed to the airport to book the next flight back to Florida. “We ran to the airport and had to wait in line … I looked calm but was screaming inside for the line to hurry,” Lulu recalls.
Once they finally got to the reservations desk, Jason explained their situation to Pohai, the gate agent for Hawaiian Airlines. In that instant, Pohai had the whole staff searching for the fastest flight from Kona to Florida. Pohai got them on a flight, but it was leaving in an hour and Jason and Lulu still had to pack up their things and all the dialysis equipment. During the chaos, their car keys were lost and Jason had to call a cab to get them back to their airport.
The plane was about to leave without Jason and Lulu, but Pohai came through again and had them hold the plane. Their journey was further delayed when Lulu was chosen for random security screening, and when they finally made their way down the airplane aisle to their seats, they received “massive stink eye” from every passenger they passed.
When asked why she didn’t tell the flight attendants her story so they could assist, Lulu says, “I’m no more special than anyone else. I don’t know their stories and what they’re going through, so I just had to believe it would all work out.” They reached the hospital at 7:30pm that night, over seven hours after Lulu’s noon appointment for surgery had passed. Thankfully the surgeon swept her away into the operating room, and Lulu was on her way to receiving a new kidney.
Tears fill her eyes as Lulu says, “It is thanks to my husband, to Pohai, and to my donor family that I am here. It is such a bittersweet thing for me. I couldn’t spend time rooting for the call because then I would be rooting for someone to pass. I remember sobbing, thinking that somebody had passed and thinking of what their family must be going through.
“You can’t enjoy that moment. I think about it every day,” she says. “My donor was a 1-year-old boy who drowned, and I hope to be able to meet his family some day and thank them in person. I got a small kidney because I’m a little people size,” Lulu smiles. At 4’11, Lulu’s petit ness comes from her parents, but because her kidney had atrophied so much, her donor kidney was actually larger than what was left of hers. But Lulu’s light heartedness and humor is infectious. And she is ever grateful for the aloha she was shown in so many ways.
Over a year has passed since Lulu’s operation and she says she feels great and is thankful for every single day. Still struggling with Addison’s Disease and her body’s fragility, Lulu’s outlook on life remains incredibly positive. “It’s important to remain positive and do happy, fun things in life,” she says.
Because Lulu couldn’t go back to work full-time, she decided to create Paradise Shave Ice out of her passion for doing fun and unique things. “I use my business to spread happy, and will go to fundraisers or private parties, school events, just about any event where I can share Aloha.” Aside from her shave ice truck, Lulu also looks to help others by being inspirational and supportive to anyone going through what she has (dialysis, transplant, Addison’s Disease, etc.).
“If I can reach and help just one person in life, then I will be spreading the Aloha.”
For Lulu, she received the aloha spirit from many people along her journey. Lulu’s husband Jason is her love, and partner in life, Pohai is her guardian angel, her donor her savior and Paradise Shave Ice her survivorship. A true story of aloha.
For more information about Paradise Shave Ice, visit the website at www.giantshaveice.com or find her on Facebook at Paradise Shave Ice USA, or call (561) 907-8ICE.