Fear and Inspiration

By Sheila Doherty, Girls Who Hike Arizona Ambassador

Are you afraid of anything? Do you have a fear of heights or a fear of spiders and snakes? Maybe you have a fear of failing so you don’t even try, or a fear of solo hiking? I have had quite a few “fears” over the years and I have come to realize that my fears are more dislikes. Meaning, I really dislike solo hiking because I am a chicken….once I did my first solo hike I LOVED it. Recently, I conquered another fear….a fear (dislike) of speaking in front of 400 people, most of whom I did not know.

Sometimes you need some inspiration to help you conquer your fear, or dislike. I was inspired to do a solo hike from seeing everyone else on social media hiking alone and loving it, some actually prefer solo hiking. Once I tried solo hiking I felt so peaceful being on the trail by myself I finally understood what everyone was talking about and why they loved it.


A few months ago I was asked to speak in front of a group of 400 women. I knew what they wanted me to speak about so I couldn’t say no. As the weeks and days of the event grew closer I became more and more nervous until I realized the person I was going to speak about was more inspirational, had lost so much at the age of 20, and yet he remains so positive and is already inspiring so many others including myself.
Here is the story of Kainoa.


Kainoa was a college student at Seton Hall in New Jersey. His family lives in Arizona. When he didn’t feel well at the end of the 2016-2017 school year they all thought it was from the stress of finals, packing up his dorm and a bad cold. When he arrived back in Arizona his mom knew right away that he was very ill. They rushed him to the hospital. The physicians were shocked by how quickly Kainoa was deteriorating right before their eyes. He was rushed in to surgery, after his parents had consented to removing any/everything the surgeons needed to…from his belly button down, including his legs. During that first surgery the surgeons only removed part of Kainoa's hamstring and back of his thigh. The family and the physicians knew that Kainoa would not survive at the hospital he was in and that he needed to be transferred to a specialty hospital that was more equipped to handle his rare condition.

By an absolute miracle, and the help of a non- profit organization called Mothers Grace, it was arranged for Kainoa to be transferred to Mayo Hospital here in Phoenix. Kainoa was already on a ventilator which was breathing for him, his kidneys failed and he was on dialysis, his whole body was shutting down. His heart was shutting down. Mayo placed him on an ECMO machine, which circulates your blood outside of your body allowing your lungs and heart to rest. The physicians told Kainoa’s family he would not survive and if he did he would have severe brain damage. Can you imagine that kind of fear? Fear that you may lose your child, brother, friend or he would never be the same?  

Kainoa did survive that night but his family was told on numerous days and over six times, that the chances of his survival were less than 1%. His family and physicians continued to fight on behalf of Kainoa as he underwent countless surgeries and had over 16 blood transfusions. He had both of his legs amputated. His left leg above the knee and his right leg were removed below the knee. Both of Kainoa’s hands were removed leaving only a nub of a thumb on his right hand. He has had numerous skin grafts, intestinal surgeries and eye surgery.

Kainoa survived. He spent over 2 months in the ICU and a total of 3 months at Mayo. He left Mayo to continue rehab at St Josephs Hospital. He was supposed to be there long term but he left in less than 2 weeks to rehab at home and as an outpatient.

Can you imagine the fear Kainoa felt seeing his limbs removed, or waking up briefly in the ICU and seeing his hands and the next time he woke up they were gone? How about the fear of everyday living, writing, eating, walking and would he ever be able to do any of those things again? The fear his family felt.

Kainoa and his family embraced life. Kainoa not only survived, he thrived, and has no brain damage. In less than a year he is walking on his prosthetic legs and he has two prosthetic hands. He is able to write and eat using only the nub on his right hand. He is taking college courses, working out (harder than I have ever worked out), giving speeches and working. He has so many things he wants to accomplish and he is not letting fear stand in his way.
Kainoa is on a mission and he has a goal to HIKE the tallest mountain in Australia, via the K2 Foundation, by December! Take the time to imagine all the fears Kainoa has faced and overcame in less than a year!? 

My fears….now known as dislikes, do not compare to Kainoa’s or his families. Speaking in front of 400 people to tell them about Kainoa was nothing compared to what Kainoa has overcome. Find an inspiration to help you overcome your fears and turn them into dislikes. Try not to take for granted your life, your ability to hike, to get outside, and to live!


Try to #LivelikeKainoa

Sheila is the Ambassador for our Arizona chapter. To join her local meet ups and discussions through Girls Who Hike Arizona, click here.