By Diane Ako
When Susan Koki walked into a King Street watering hole last April to pick up her son, she never expected she would find the love of her life. "I had been a single mother since 1995, and I was content. I wasn't looking for a man, and I was prepared to spend the rest of my life this way," she recalls.
She met up with her son, Dillon, who said he wanted to introduce her to his favorite bartender, Danny Higa. "Something clicked. It was the sparkle in his eye, and his engaging smile," said Koki.
It was instantaneous for him, too. The chemistry was intense and fast-acting. "I knew quickly this was someone special," said Higa.
It was mid-April. The two started going out. "By the end of April, I knew this was the man I wanted to marry," Koki said.
Then, she says, destiny stepped in. On the evening of May 4, the two met for a date. Koki was running late, and when she arrived, Higa told her he had a chest cold, was tired, and was going to go home. "My car was blocked in, so I needed to wait for her to come and drive me home," he recalled.
Koki said he looked terrible, but Higa insisted he was fine and wanted to go to sleep. When he jumped in her car, Koki drove him to the emergency room. "She told me I could get mad at her tomorrow if it's just a little chest cold, but I was going to see a doctor tonight," said Higa.
Koki's instincts proved right. Immediately, a nurse noticed Higa's hands had turned blue. He was taken right away into ICU for what became a ten day stay.
Higa had serious heart problems, and the medical team needed to induce a coma. He had a 20 percent chance of survival. "It was so serious, my family was called in to say goodbye. My son even flew in from the mainland," explained Higa.
"Talk about crash course in meeting the whole family," Koki jokes now. At the time, though, it was overwhelming for her - and ironic that two people who were not even looking for love, found it, only to possibly have it torn away all too soon. "How can this be?" she remembers thinking. "I just met my soulmate!"
When it came time for Koki and Higa to say goodbye, "I just kept saying sorry," he said. "I never thought I would be at death's door."
For ten days, she kept vigil at his side, talking to him, telling him of all the things they have yet to do together. When he woke up, the first words he said to her were, "I love you. I can’t live without you. Marry me now!"
Koki said no. She knew she wanted to be his wife, but not under these rushed circumstances. So they planned a date for the one year anniversary of his hospitalization.
The two are flying to Big Sur, California, to be wed in a small, intimate ceremony in front of family and a few close friends on May 4.
"It's only fitting," explained Higa. "It's not the day my life almost ended. It's the day it began, with the revelation that it was the start of something great with Susan."