Beautiful Survivors: Noa and Keolamau Yee
Siblings, alike in many ways. But it's different life experiences that led them down the same career path.
Siblings, alike in many ways.
But it's different life experiences that led them down the same career path.
For Noa and Keolamau Yee, getting to this moment in life, is what some call destiny.
"That was my dream to be here studying to be a physician," Noa said.
Attending the John A. Burns School of Medicine at UH was a goal for both.
"There's no way you can't be inspired by the people that literally gave you a chance at your own life," Keolamau said.
But the journey wasn't always easy.
Keolamau was born premature at 26 and a half weeks in her gestational age on July 11, 1991.
She weighted just 1 pound 10 ounces, doctors told the family she might not survive.
"I was my parents first child... So you can imagine being first time parents, it's very scary daunting kind of piece of information that they were given," Keolamau said.
She says from the stories her mother told her, it was the doctors and staff at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children that never gave up, giving her the needed treatment and proper care to survive.
"A little bit of prayers and good, incredible care obviously and here I am," Keolamau said.
Proving her strength, she graduated with a degree in biology at the University of Pennsylvania but that's not all.
She was also a competitive gymnast from 16 to 20 years old.
Inspired by her beginnings, she is hoping to help others the way health providers helped her.
Being told a child may not survive is something no family wants to hear but more than 20 years later, Keolamau's brother was told similar news.
"About two years ago, I had really rare infection that nearly took my life," Noa said.
Noa was a senior in college when he contracted a bacterial infection. He had got it treated before but it soon returned, cutting short the family's Christmas vacation on Maui so he could check into Straub Medical Center.
"And the day after that I was having a pic line put in my arm to my heart and then the day after that, I was having surgery," Noa said.
The diagnosis was a rare form of E-Coli resistant to many antibiotics, which meant surgery was needed.
Based on the shape Noa was in, doctors told him there was a chance he might he not make it.
"It was intimidating to have a bunch of people in white coats say, 'hey, you have a decent chance of dying and you should consider that and internalize that and know what that means," Noa said.
"I think there was a lot of fear a lot, a lot of sadness, but also a lot of hope," Keolamau said.
The Yee's say hope, came from doctors and nurses at Straub.
After a long road to recovery, Noa set out to finish what he started, to graduate from Tufts University in Boston.
"I brought my whole IV set up, I'm there trudging through the snow holding my IV. I had friends wheelchair me around and drive me around to classes for every single day for months on end," Noa said.
Perseverance paid off and the Yee siblings are in Medical School at UH together..
Noa in his second year, Keolamau in her third.
Fighting back to give back, that's their inspiration.
"It definitely enhanced our perspective and the way we choose to see our own world and the lens that we choose to bend the light in our life through," Noa said.