HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In seven words, Nicholas Iwamoto puts his life in perspective.
“Recovery from trauma is a lifelong battle,” he said.
The Hilo resident is a survivor in every sense of the word. “It’s my reaction to my stabbing and the way I’ve rebuilt my life that makes me who I am,” he said.
In February 2009, Iwamoto was savagely attacked while hiking at Koko Crater. The man who attacked him was acquitted by reason of insanity, while Iwamoto has had to live with the aftermath.
“I was stabbed a total of 18 times, and I was stabbed in the head six times, so that causes some headaches,” he said.
It’s been 12 years since the attack. At times, it’s difficult for him to breathe ― the effects of a punctured lung. The broken neck he suffered still causes pain.
“Every physical movement I make is a reminder of the injuries I suffered,” he said.
But Iwamoto has also made great strides. He wears his scars like badges of courage.
“I have been to the lowest places a person can be and I’m still here,” he said.
What he endured motivates him. The turning point came in 2013, when he stopped taking painkillers.
“Getting my mind clear is what really allowed me to go to the next level and eventually go back to school,” he said.
Now 34 years old, he’s finally resumed what the attack interrupted. Last fall he graduated from the University of Hawaii at Hilo with a degree in European history. He has a job and he’s golfing again.
He’s also an outspoken advocate for victims’ rights.
“If I can use my story to help someone going through challenging times, and there are lots of challenging times these days, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.
The attack severed tendons in his hands, so he knits to help with finger dexterity. He started doing the craft within months of the stabbing and he hasn’t stopped. It’s become more than a pastime.
“I have either sold or gifted thousands of pieces of knit goods, beanies, scarves, pot holders. It really has changed my life,” he said.
Family and friends and even total strangers have helped his recovery process, which is work in progress.
“I think about all the letters, emails, messages I’ve gotten from people I’ve never met in person over the last twelve years,’” he said.
Iwamoto hopes to someday write a book about his experience.
“Overall, I’ve made pretty remarkable progress physically,” he said.
Although bouts with pain are everyday reminders of what his assailant did to him, he isn’t holding onto hate. He said the best revenge is living.