A stroke stole his voice and nearly his mobility. It couldn’t take his willpower

A stroke stole his voice and nearly his mobility. It couldn’t take his willpower

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Before he suffered a stroke in 2011, James "Kimo" Akaka was a successful chef. He owned a catering business and spent every moment he could in the ocean.

"The water is his life," said his friend Corinne Makahilahila.

But after the stroke, Akaka’s life changed dramatically.

He was partially paralyzed and lost his ability to speak. He communicates now through text messages and hand gestures.

"Every day for him, the normal things that we do, is like a monumental challenge for him. He gets up and he goes at it again and again and again," Makahilahila said.

Akaka’s drive is indeed amazing.

With one arm and willpower, he’s pushed his body through rough water swims and paddled across the Kaiwi Channel several times.

Using a bicycle modified by triathlete trainer and BOCA Hawaii owner Raul Torres, Akaka's crossed the finish line in Honolulu Marathons and Great Aloha Runs.

“It’s very difficult. If you think riding a bike is tough uphill in a normal bike, imagine doing that on a bicycle you have to pedal with your arms,” Torres said.

Pushing his limits, Akaka once completed a 100-mile bike ride across Texas with a group of military wounded warriors.

Makahilahila’s making a documentary on his life. She videotapes his races to capture the action ― and reaction.

"That part really touches me," she said. "So many people are wanting to help him. You'll see people dive in the water at the moment they see he's struggling."

Akaka, 59, is the father of three.

He credits poi for keeping him healthy, regular exercise for keeping him strong, and the encouragement from friends and strangers that keep him going.

He's an example of what the mind can do.

"There's no limit for him. That's what really attracts me to build that relationship with him," Torres said.

Later this year, Akaka will pedal his bike in the New York City Marathon.

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