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Familial support: Locals raise money for family with mounting medical bills

Community: Locals organize event to help family with mounting medical bills

Posted: April 17, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 17, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Volunteers Susie Liem, right, and Joe Ferrara grill hot dogs and hamburgers at the Arakaki Family Fundraiser and Classic Car Show held in the Albertsons parking lot in Saugus on Saturday.

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Steve and Lisa Arakaki have worked hard all their lives — Steve toiling in the produce section of the neighborhood store, arranging oranges and limes, Lisa delivering bread for the Oroweat Baking Co.

Married 17 years, they bought a house, raised a family and provided for their son Nick, 15, and daughter Holly, 10.

Then one night in November, after one of those long hard days, they went to bed — happy, knowing they’ve done as much as they possibly could to provide a safe comfortable life for their children and themselves.

But the next day they woke up — Steve ready for another day at Albertsons supermarkets, Lisa stuck in a nightmare.

At some point in the night, for no explicable reason, Lisa Arakaki suffered a brain aneurysm.

Some unseen thread of physiology unraveled that night, and that same thread began unraveling their world.

Helping out
On Saturday, their friends, neighbors, customers who bought bread or oranges, strangers and Santa Clarita Valley residents came out to show their support, to help sew together a very disruptive event in the Arakaki family’s lives.

Steve Arakaki, wearing a light blue T-shirt with a photo of his family and the words “Arakaki Family Fundraiser,” tried to describe how he felt but his chin began to quiver, so he had to stop.

“A couple of days ago, Holly, my daughter, came up to me and said ‘Dad, I really miss mom,’ ... It was at that point she realized how much she truly missed her,” he said.

He smiled, but had to wait for a moment longer.

The quivering stopped, and he started again.

“To see something like this, it’s overwhelming,” he said, looking over a crowded supermarket parking lot. “It restores your faith in human kind.”

In front of him, several men, women and children — all wearing the same team T-shirt — served food and drinks to people attending the fundraiser, spending money and helping out.

“There’s a lot of good out there,” he said. “It restores your faith in everything.”

“Our lives up until now were pretty much private,” he said. “This trade-off is amazing.”

Scores of families turned out Saturday for the fundraiser at the Albertsons on Bouquet Canyon Road at Haskell Canyon Road.

There were balloons, face-painting and games of bean-bag tossing and Go Fish.

Dads looked under the hood of meticulously preserved vintage cars. Others lined up for at the barbecue.

Steve Arakaki was asked: “Have you been able to keep it together today?”

He paused — the chin again.

“There were times I could not,” he said pausing again. “I went to see her this morning.”

Brain aneurysm
A brain aneurysm is a blood-filled, bubble-like bulge that develops in the wall of a blood vessel, which can commonly occur in arteries inside the brain.

It left Lisa Arakaki with impaired vision and speech, short-term memory loss and partial paralysis.
Just over a week ago, she was transferred from a $900-per-day nursing rehabilitation facility in Oxnard “back home” to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital.

“Henry Mayo is fantastic,” Steve Arakaki said. “The people, the nurses, the doctors, the facility. It’s all wonderful.”

Lisa Arakaki has undergone seven brain operations, and participates in several rehabilitation therapies.

“She gets better every day, in little increments,” her husband said. “I deal with one issue at a time. Right now, it’s getting her to initiate conversation, so we can know what she needs, what hurts, what bothers her.

The fundraiser continues today at Albertsons.


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