Finishing up sophomore year at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, Kainoa Spenser was about to face the fight of his life.
The International Affairs major woke up one day not feeling well. The next day he passed out. Believing that he was just exhausted from finals, Spenser tried to power through.
He flew home to Arizona and was immediately rushed to HonorHealth. His organs were failing. It turns out he had Strep Group A, and while moving boxes out of his dorm room, had hit his leg. That turned into flesh eating bacteria. Spenser was in a life or death situation.
He explains that he was transferred to Mayo Hospital where doctors put Spenser into a medically induced coma. The necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease, ended up leading to the amputation of Spenser’s legs and hands.
“When I got out of the hospital a little over a year ago I was connected immediately with Kyle Maynard. He was born with congenital amputations. Seeing how he was able to transform that tragedy into something that is inspiring to all, and has radically improved his life and lives around the world, was cool to see. How he was able to turn his pain into … purpose,” Spenser explains.
On our Carey Pena Reports Podcast, Spenser told his story alongside his Trainer and Coach, Jesse Holland. The two met after Spenser spoke at an event for K2 Adventures, for which Holland is a Mountain Guide.
They began to chart a course for Spenser’s recovery. “Kainoa often shows me and everybody what we can do. That we are not a victim,” Holland says.
The first objective for Kainoa was to get back to holding a golf club and to have enough stamina to be able to swing. He met and surpassed that goal over the past year, having golfed in two tournaments.
Now, Kainoa Spenser is joining K2 Adventures and Jesse Holland on a trip to Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest mountain. It’s located on the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains in Kosciuszko National Park, part of the Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves.
“Improving your mental health starts with improving your physical health,” Spenser says of his ongoing recovery and the lofty physical goals he has set for himself.
All along, the community has rallied around Kainoa Spenser and his family using the hashtag #LiveLikeKainoa
While he has had overwhelming support, there have been many dark days. And he allows himself the mental space to be depressed – with an end date.
“Nothing is wrong with having those (dark days), but the best part is knowing that it’s going to end. And setting the end date,” Spenser explains. “You can feel bad for yourself, and eat the worst food for yourself, and watch all the movies you want, and sit on the couch, but know on Monday when you wake up, that that’s the end and you are moving forward.”
Kainoa serves as inspiration to the Arizona community where he now lives and to the Seton Hall community in New Jersey where he previously went to school, but also for people all over the world who have discovered his story.
Around his neck, Kainoa Spenser wears a Tree of Life Intention Stick, created by Valley residents Scott and Marla Berger. Inside the necklace, Spenser puts his words of intention and that’s where he keeps his focus.
Also, he has his faith.
“I have a major connection with God,” Spenser shares. “And he allows me, and my faith truly allows me to have that first breath of … it’s going to be okay. There’s something greater for this purpose and you have to find those motivating factors outside of yourself.”