Akamu Mendonza

Wall of Hope: Stories of Courage & Inspiration


At 6 months old, Akamu Mendonza began experiencing symptoms of a viral infection that were expected to subside within a week. The symptoms persisted for several days before he was taken to the emergency department, where he was quickly discharged with antibiotics to treat an ear infection.

Less than one month later, he returned to the ED with a severe eye infection known as orbital cellulitis and was admitted to Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children.

For two weeks, Akamu received IV antibiotics at the medical center. It was during this time that doctors discovered his absolute neutrophil count (ANC) was zero. While abnormal, the lack of neutrophils could be explained by the infection or strong antibiotics.

Unfortunately, his counts never rose.

At one point, Akamu was admitted to Kapiolani Medical Center's PICU due to his multiple infections.

Following a few other infections, hospital stays and specialized blood tests, Akamu was diagnosed with an extremely rare blood disorder called severe congenital neutropenia, which increases the risk of sickness in affected individuals due to the deficiency of infection-fighting neutrophils.

Akamu’s mother, Christie, was scared. As a single parent raising four boys, she was worried about getting her family through the next few years.

“Now we had an answer, but didn’t know what was next,” she says.

After talking with Kapiolani’s oncology team, Christie decided to look into a promising option – a bone marrow transplant. She talked to Akamu’s brothers and with their permission, swabbed them with the hope of finding a match. Her second-youngest son, Ekolu, who was only 4 years old at the time, was a half-match. Doctors reassured Christie that a half-match was just as good as a full match, so they proceeded with the transplant.

While Akamu battled several roadblocks throughout the course of the transplant – severe graft-versus-host disease of the skin and gastrointestinal tract, respiratory syncytial virus, cytomegalovirus and pneumocystis pneumonia – his family never lost hope.

Akamu with his mom, Christie, and two of his three older brothers.

His recovery following the transplant was not easy. Akamu spent 10 weeks straight in an isolation room. He was discharged following the isolation but returned to the hospital almost monthly due to infections and complications. At one point, he was even admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

After many challenges, Akamu finally began to improve. Now 2 years old, he is healthy, growing and keeping up with his brothers. His neutrophil count is now normal. The transplant was successful and Akamu’s family is incredibly happy to have their little boy back.

Thanks to his strong will, the love of his family and support of his care team, Akamu has made a remarkable recovery that will inspire others to push forward.

“Trust your team, have faith and never give up,” Christie says. “Stay focused and positive even through the darkest days, because the end result is worth it.”


Portions of the 2023 Wall of Hope photography exhibition were photographed on the grounds of Iolani Palace. Built by King David Kalakaua, Iolani Palace is where his wife, Queen Kapiolani, first envisioned a maternity hospital to provide proper quality care for Hawaiian women and their newborns. Here, she hosted magnificent galas and luau to raise funds for the creation of the Kapiolani Maternity Home, which would eventually become Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children. Now, more than a century later, to see these Kapiolani patients – all of whom have overcome some medical adversity – happy and healthy on these very same grounds is, indeed, Queen Kapiolani’s dream come full circle.



Published on: April 17, 2023