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In 2017, Licenced Practical Nurse JoAnn Lau Kong will celebrate her anniversary at the Health Center too; she’s been serving our community for 30 years!

When JoAnn was little, she admired Shizue Asato, with her white dress, stockings and cap and told her mom, “I want to be just like her. I want to be a nurse!” When Shizue retired, JoAnn even filled her position and got to follow in her footsteps.

When asked what the transition from the plantation infirmary to the Hamakua Health Center was like, JoAnn replied, “There were a lot of mixed emotions; we wanted to continue to provide much-needed healthcare services to the people of our community but at the same time, we wondered how we could remain viable without the financial assistance of the Hamakua Sugar Co.

“When I first began my career in the Plantation Days, things were so different. I think about the bus dropping-off patients to the Old Hamakua Infirmary. They would be seen free at first and later would have to pay a dollar. Behind the sign-in counter, there was one nurse with three patients sitting side-by-side getting their temperatures taken. We had paper charts back then and an in-house pharmacy where medications were dispensed to plantation workers and their families.

“One of the services that really sticks-out in my mind was meeting plantation Supervisor Polo early in the morning in front of the infirmary to go to the cane fields and administer flu shots to workers before they began their shifts. We drove way up mauka and knew we got to our destination when we came up and saw the ladies in the fields with their handkerchiefs across their mouths to keep out the dust. Men and women would come and line-up for their shots. We drove up and up and I never knew this beauty existed; the sugar cane fields looked like God’s country!

“I loved the work that we did at the Infirmary. Each staff member’s birthday was celebrated and our pot-lucks were out of this world! We looked for every reason to gather and celebrate, which kept us a close family.

“I continue to do the work that is dear to my heart … caring for people. Being a nurse is my passion and I am often told by patients, that ‘my work is my calling.’

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