Daniel Jackson Mapu, who was paralyzed when he was hit by two vehicles during a sign-waving rally against drugs more than a decade ago, has died. He was 32.
Mapu died of complications from pneumonia Thursday at his Hauula home, his older brother Jimmy Mapu said.
Mapu wasn't supposed to survive a year after the crash, which left him in critical condition with a severe brain injury. Although he remained bedridden, he eventually regained the ability to say a few words and make limited use of his left hand.
"He was actually doing really well these past few years," said Jimmy Mapu, 36. "His body was in great condition. I think that's part of the reason he lasted so long. He was something strong."
The Kahuku High football star athlete and Polynesian Cultural Center dancer was with a large group of people along Kamehameha Highway in Kaaawa in 2003 when the driver of a pickup truck allegedly fell asleep and hit him. The impact sent Mapu into the path of a van that ran him over.
Mapu spent almost two years in the hospital but eventually returned home, where his family cared for him around the clock. The family later took him to Utah, where a top brain doctor worked with him on his recovery. Mapu learned to say a few words like "mom" and "hola," using Spanish he picked up from his time as a Mormon missionary in Chicago.
About five years ago Mapu returned home to Hawaii. Church members helped build an addition to the family's house where Mapu could live. Mapu's mother, Maryann Mapu, had already quit her job to care for her son, and all the family members helped out in shifts.
The family helped Mapu do exercises and stretches so his muscles wouldn't lock up.
"The goal was to get him to stand," Jimmy Mapu said. "You could see his muscles shaking, he was trying so hard."
Eventually, Mapu could stand, with assistance, for about a minute.
"They had said he was going to die, so every small thing was a huge miracle to us," his brother said.
Jimmy Mapu said he was sure his brother was aware of what was happening around him, although the doctors weren't positive.
"We would have conversations," he said. "We felt like he was still there. Always there."
Mapu couldn't eat or swallow but he communicated with his eyebrows.
Before the crash, Daniel Mapu was the most lively of his six siblings, "one of those people so full of life," Jimmy Mapu said.
After the crash his brother continued to touch others' lives, he said. A couple from Minnesota visited the family, saying they saw Mapu's story online and it had changed their daughter's life.
"He's still doing good work even though you take away everything from him," he said. "So many blessings have come since he was in the accident. My family has become closer."
In May, Mapu contracted pneumonia, and doctors gave him less than three months to live. He survived longer than expected, but the pneumonia eventually got the better of him, his brother said.
Since his death, guests have been continuously stopping by to give their condolences.
No charges were ever filed in the crash because investigators determined speeding, alcohol and drugs were not involved, a prosecutor's office spokesman said.
The family, however, reached a confidential settlement in a lawsuit against the two drivers and the companies they worked for.
Jimmy Mapu, whose father is a retired Honolulu police officer, said he was surprised no charges were filed, and that the settlement was just for show because the amount didn't cover the medical bills.
"But all of us, we all found peace now," he said. "I'm not happy with what happened, but I think that I can finally say, 'I forgive him.'"
Besides brother Jimmy, Mapu is survived by parents Simi and Maryann; brother Jonathan; sisters Natile, Ane, Toeupu and Tasi; and grandmothers Ane Ah You and Moli Mapu.
Visitation is set for 9 a.m. Friday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Laie Hawaii Stake Center. Service is set for noon, followed by burial at Laie Cemetery. Flowers are welcome.
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased