A Wading River veteran, who developed a painful and incurable disease after a severe wound suffered in combat training, drove out of the Riverhead Nissan parking lot Dec. 23 with a brand new Nissan Armada SUV so he can spend New Year’s with his family.
Private First Class Moke Kahalehoe, 29, was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2005 after an accident in martial arts training caused three broken bones, which spurred reflex sympathetic dystrophy.
The pain induced by this rare disorder is rated higher than pain induced by broken bones, gun shots, amputation, cancer and childbirth without medicine.
“I have pain every second of my life,” PFC Kahalehoe said. “Most of my bad days, I’m curled up in the fetal position, crippled with pain. It feels like hot lava with knives going through my body. I can’t even have a ceiling fan on because the wind against my body is excruciating.”
He’s been on a variety of medications and treatments, one of which put him in a coma, which he says could have killed him. He currently takes ketamine, a hallucinogenic recreational drug not approved by the FDA, to help with the pain.
He is on 100 percent disability from Veterans Affairs, and is eligible for financial assistance to purchase an automobile. In 2008, he tried unsuccessfully to obtain the assistance, and instead bought a car with his own money. When his wife, Amanda, 25, had their second child in August, he needed a larger car and said he called Veterans Affairs every single day since Oct. 13 to no avail.
Ten days ago, he reached out to Congressman Tim Bishop (D – Southampton) who pressured the VA and secured money for the Kahalehoe family to purchase their new car.
“In an ideal world, a veteran should not ever need his congressional representative to intervene,” Mr. Bishop said at Riverhead Nissan Thursday. “I’m awfully glad you came to us. I wish you came to us earlier.”
Ms. Kahalehoe said their old Nissan Altima wasn’t large enough to fit her husband’s wheelchair and her children’s strollers and car seats. Though the car will help her family, she said living with her husband’s disease is heartbreaking.
“It’s very hard to know your husband has this disorder and you don’t know if giving him a hug might hurt him,” she said. “If your daughter wants to play on her father, she has to be careful. It debilitates you in ways you never thought it would.”
This tragedy does have a silver lining. Mr. and Mrs. Kahalehoe met at the Beaufort Naval Hospital in South Carolina where Mrs. Kahalehoe, also a former Marine, was being treated for optic neuritis.
Mr. and Mrs. Kahalehoe plan to drive to Pennsylvania in their new SUV with their daughters Leilana, 3, and Isabella, 6 months, to spend New Year’s with Mr. Kahalehoe’s family.
“It’s definitely a miracle,” Mr. Kahalehoe said.