Monday, November 29, 2010

Star Advertiser: Brennan Crash Victim's Husband Keeps Vigil

David Chen says he is not mad at the driver who injured his wife

By Dan Nakaso

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 29, 2010

Terry Brennan, father of former University of Hawaii star quarterback Colt Brennan, took a break from his son's bedside at the Queen's Medical Center last week to go to the bathroom when he was approached by a soft-spoken stranger.

Within moments, Brennan recognized David Chen as a man of remarkable strength born from a deep and relentless faith.

"He's a special guy -- I could tell that right off," Brennan said. "He goes through life with a lot of self-assurance, and I'm sure that comes from his faith."

Colt Brennan was released from the hospital Saturday, and as his fans wait for updates on his recovery from the Nov. 19 head-on crash on the Big Island's Queen Kaahumanu Highway, Chen has taken up quiet residence in the Queen's intensive care unit, praying no fewer than 15 times a day.

Chen's wife, Dr. Theresa Wang, 47, was driving a 1996 Saab sedan when she was hit by a 1997 Toyota SUV driven by Brennan's girlfriend, Shakti Stream, 27.

Stream declined a request by the Star-Advertiser to be interviewed. But she and her mother, Dora Furtado, a Big Island Hawaiian healer, visited Wang Thanksgiving night and held hands in a circle with Chen, his sister-in-law and friends for 10 to 15 minutes, Chen said yesterday.

Wang has not regained consciousness since she was flown by medevac from Kona to Oahu after the crash.

But moments after Thursday night's Thanksgiving prayer circle, Wang suddenly opened her eyes.

She did not blink in response to questions, but the moment was one of the few bright spots since the crash.

"For us it was like a prayer answered," Chen said. "Even though she is still not responsive, it is a small step on the road to recovery. We have a lot to be thankful for."

Chen is anxious to learn why Stream crossed Queen Kaahumanu Highway's center line. But he did not ask Stream for details. She does not have health insurance and continues to suffer from a broken clavicle, Chen said.

"The moment wasn't right," he said. "It was a moment more about forgiveness than about fact-finding. If we're intended to know, it will come out."

After suffering from an aneurysm in 2008, Wang had not returned to work as a family care physician at the West Hawaii Community Health Center. As a result of the Nov. 19 car crash, Wang suffered a broken neck that led to a blood clot, which triggered a stroke that left her unconscious, Chen said.

Wang underwent surgery to repair broken femurs in both legs and other leg fractures. But her brain remains swollen, and neurological tests will determine whether she is strong enough to be operated on to repair multiple fractures in both arms, broken ribs and her broken neck, Chen said.

"They're waiting for the swelling to subside in the brain," he said.

When he speaks to God throughout the day, Chen does not pray for his wife's wounds to heal.

"We don't need to ask of God. He knows what we need," Chen, 47, said by telephone as monitors beeped by his wife's side.

Instead, when Chen closes his eyes in prayer throughout the course of each day, he gives thanks.

"We certainly do have a lot to be thankful for this year," he said. "We're thankful because she survived, and we're thankful that the first responders got there when they did and got her helicoptered to North Hawaii Community Hospital. We're thankful for the air ambulance and, of course, for all of the nurses and doctors and support staff here at Queen's who have done wonders for her. We are thankful for God for allowing all of this to take place and for keeping Theresa with us."

THE CRASH OCCURRED in North Kona -- near Makalawena Beach, at about the 90-mile marker -- and was reported at 9:36 a.m.

Big Island police are investigating the collision as "two negligent injury investigations," according to a statement. "The exact cause of the crash is still under investigation and it is undetermined at this time if speed, alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash."

Hawaii County police Maj. Randy Apele said it could take a couple more weeks for toxicology and mechanical inspection reports to come back.

At least one witness gave statements at the scene of the crash, Apele said, but "there was nothing significant that may have contributed to the crash in terms of traffic congestion or other vehicles that were on the roadway."

Once the toxicology and mechanical results come back, Apele said, "the case will be routed to the Prosecutor's Office for review."

Stream was released from a Kona hospital last week, Terry Brennan said.

WANG WAS BORN in Taiwan; Chen, in Hong Kong.

Both of their families immigrated to Alberta, Canada, where Wang and Chen were introduced by mutual friends 20 years ago.

She was outgoing and finishing up medical school. He was more reserved, and interested in finance.

"The first time we met, she told her girlfriend, 'He's not my type,'" Chen said. "I was persistent, and she came to know that maybe, deep down, I was her type. She seemed like a nice, caring person. I thought the relationship was worth pursuing."

They married four years later and settled in Wisconsin for the next nine years for Wang's career, after she was heavily recruited around the United States, Chen said.

They became U.S. citizens and -- when they discovered they could not have children -- began the process to adopt a baby from Taiwan.

In 2006 they moved to the Big Island for Chen's job as director of finance at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel. The plan was for Wang to retire from her medical career and raise the child they hoped to adopt.

But Wang was moved by the need for neighbor island doctors.

"The main thing her patients say is she takes the time to listen to them and understands their needs," Chen said. "She's patient and makes them feel comfortable. A lot of times, she tells me that they may come in for a cough or a cold, but she quickly realizes there are other problems at home or problems at work. She's particularly good at getting them to reveal that second, hidden agenda."

Six months after her 2008 aneurysm, the adoption they dreamed of came through.

But the 3-year-old girl suffered from developmental issues because her mother had been addicted to alcohol and drugs, Chen said.

So Wang and Chen made the painful decision to have their daughter adopted by a family on the mainland that had experience caring for special-needs children.

"It wasn't just Theresa's aneurysm," Chen said. "It would be a challenging situation for even fully healthy parents."

Asked about the pain of letting the toddler go, Chen said quietly, "That was a difficult time for us. It wasn't God's plan at the time."

Every day since Chen got a call from North Hawaii Community Hospital saying his wife of 16 years had been in an accident, he has been at her bedside.

He sleeps in special accommodations at the Queen's Medical Center at night and stays in touch with work during the day.

Friends from Greece and Egypt to Tokyo and Taiwan regularly send e-mails offering to pray for Wang and include her in their church services and prayer groups.

While Chen waits by his wife's side, he believes that the answers to all of his questions will come in their own time.

He just has to be patient. In the meantime, Chen insists he has no animus toward the woman who crashed into his wife's car. He just wants to know why.

"I don't harbor any ill feelings toward her," Chen said. "It would be good to know the reason that the vehicle crossed the center line. If it was inadvertent or even if it was intentional, we still have to forgive. I'm just doing what God intended for us to do."

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