DENVER (CBS4) – A teenager from Hawaii traveled to Denver for chest surgery. He will be heading home with a new body image and confidence after having his sunken chest pushed into a normal position.

When Kai Kaahui was a little kid he noticed his chest was different.

Kai Kaahui (credit: CBS)

“It wasn’t flat and straight like my brother’s or my father’s,” Kai told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

Kai was born with pectus excavatum, also known as funnel chest. Some ribs and his sternum grew abnormally.

The dent didn’t bother him much until his cousin said something at the beach.

(credit: CBS)

“She commented and said, “Hey why is your chest looking weird?” And that really made me notice it,” kai said. “It made me feel self-conscious about myself.”

Kai learned the deformity could be corrected with surgery. He traveled from Hawaii to Denver and pediatric surgeon Dr. Sarah Lai at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

Dr. Lai did what is called the Nuss procedure. Through a few small incisions, she placed a curved metal bar behind Kai’s sternum to raise it up.

“If you can imagine putting braces on but correcting them exactly to where you want them to be immediately,” explained Dr. Lai.

(credit: Kaahui family)

Kai’s chest looked normal right away.

“I almost couldn’t believe it. It was completely straight. It was the best thing I’ve ever seen,” said the 15 year old.

Recovery was painful at first, but Kai was up and walking two days later. He will go back to Hawaii with confidence.

“I can say I had a cool surgery. I got this bar in me and I became Ironman,” he said with a smile.
Kai will lose his metal in two years when the bar is taken out. He’ll be back at the beach as just Kai, but with his chest held high.