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The Work of Heroes

As seen in Lanai Today...

Alex Phelps and Isalina Rendon are modest heroes. They’re the kind of people who look you in the eyes, their gaze clear and direct, when they speak. Both insist, in separate interviews, that they are unremarkable, they are just doing their jobs. But it is because they did their work and continue to do it so remarkably well that their co-workers at Lāna‘i Community Hospital, voted Phelps, a registered nurse, and Rendon, a housekeeper, as their hospital heroes, those braving the front lines of the Coronavirus pandemic whose cases, at the time this publication went to print, were up to 17.7 million worldwide, of which there were 682,178 deaths.

Though there are differing opinions of the qualities of a hero, the definition of heroism is one that brooks no dissent. Heroism involves an altruistic act or acts and an element of personal risk or sacrifice.

It is this risk that casts Phelps and Rendon as heroes, despite their protests that they are not. The hallmarks of a hero are courage and empathy and circumstance. Against the backdrop of a pandemic, amidst the unrelenting global death toll, and coupled with evidence that we have not yet turned the corner, as cases continue to surge in countries all over the world, one could well argue that Phelps’ and Rendon’s respective line of work – the care for and treatment of the sick, and the diligent cleaning of those spaces in which such care is given – is the very definition of heroism. The coronavirus pandemic is the circumstance in this hero’s journey, and Phelps and Rendon and others in the medical field, who find the courage every day to do their work, at great personal risk, are heroes.

To honor and thank hospital heroes, Pūlama Lāna‘i is gifting each hospital throughout the state a select number of all-inclusive Heroes Relaxation Retreat packages, based on the hospital’s bed count, to award to employees of their choosing. Phelps and Rendon, and one guest each, are among the honorees gifted with a luxurious, two-night stay at Sensei Lāna‘i, a Four Seasons Resort. As was reported in the July edition of Lāna‘i Today, the complimentary package includes roundtrip airfare from Honolulu to Lāna‘i on luxury charter service Lāna‘i Air, and a fully personalized wellness experience that centers around each individual’s well-being journey through Sensei’s signature paths of move, nourish, rest. Each guest receives a $600 daily wellness credit toward the Sensei Experience Menu to enjoy the benefits of a curated well-being experience and a $200 dining credit to enjoy fresh, Lāna‘i-grown fare at Sensei by Nobu, Kō‘ele Garden Bar or in-room dining. The package also includes a rotating collection of daily, complimentary small-group activities, such as fitness, yoga, and meditation classes, as well as a dedicated Sensei guide for one-on-one instruction in nutrition, exercise physiology, fitness and lifestyle practices, private spa hale treatments, and access to island activities, as part of the Sensei Experience menu.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime amazing experience. The staff was incredible. They made us feel so special,” Phelps says of his stay, his eyes soft with wonder. “I felt like I was living the vision [of Sensei]. I forgot that we were a mile away from town. I forgot I was on Lāna‘i, It was such a generous gift from Pūlama, and I am so grateful. I could never have afforded this. I could never have had this experience. After I went home, it meant even more to me that I was selected by my co-workers. I am so thankful. I’ve been trying to come up with a way to say thank you.”

Isalina Rendon, who has been in LCH’s environmental services department since 2006, in housekeeping, had not yet gone on her weekend stay at Sensei Lāna‘i with her husband at the time of the interview. She is in a similar state of disbelief and feels overwhelming gratitude to her coworkers, and Pūlama Lāna‘i: “I didn’t expect this. We’re all just doing our jobs. With COVID-19, there are more rules and regulations, we take extra precautions, but it’s the same work.” Rendon cleans all departments, long-term care area, the emergency room, all labs.

She says the pandemic has made her more patient and flexible. “Our staff is limited. If someone gets sick, we cover that shift. It’s my job, so I just try my best to maintain the cleanliness and safety for everyone.”

As with everyone on the planet, the pandemic has changed every aspect of Phelps’ and Rendon’s lives. “We’re all getting used to doing things virtually. This is the way it’s going to be. So we adapt,” says Phelps', who has been with LCH for six years of his 30-year career as a nurse. Rendon and Phelps attribute Lāna‘i’s compliance to the respect residents have for one another.

“I’m very proud to be in this community,” says Phelps. “We are where we are today because we followed the guidelines. Our hospital put in safety and screening measures early to protect our community. But we can’t let our guards down. We need to keep up the good work and wear our face masks and wash our hands. Otherwise, all our hard work will be for nothing. We need to stay vigilant.”

“We took precautions seriously, like social distancing and handwashing and wearing facemasks. Because there’s too much at stake. We understand that we need to make sacrifices for the good and safety of our community,” says Rendon, stressing the importance of personal responsibility, which, in the age of a pandemic, is heroic in its own right.

Click here to view the photos and article in Lanai Today!