The international bluegrass world was shocked by the news over Thanksgiving that Hiroshi Arakawa, a Japanese student living in North Carolina while learning to improve his bluegrass skills at East Tennessee State University, was seriously injured in an auto accident that took his girlfriend, Juana Maria Cardona-Alvarez’s, life.
The couple was traveling to visit a friend Thanksgiving evening in Raleigh, and the accident occurred when they turned into oncoming traffic. Hiro has been hospitalized since that day, and kept primarily in an induced coma. Doctors are keeping him sedated in order to give his collapsed lung time to heal, but on the occasions when he has come out, he’s been able to respond to both English and Japanese prompts, a very good sign that there has been no serious brain damage.
According to his friend Hank Smith in Raleigh, Hiro is facing a long rehabilitation, though the prognosis is good.
“As of this writing, there was no infection, no pneumonia, no hemorrhaging or fluid retention on the brain, and all signs point to positive. They expect him to recover fully, though the physical and psychological rehab will most likely be extensive. By all estimates, he’ll remain hospitalized for the rest of the month. However, he’s young and strong and hopefully we’ll be able to visit him soon. Right now, and while he’s under sedation, all visits are limited to family only. Since the accident, over $24,000 has been raised on GoFundMe, which is still active, and an additional $5,000 has been raised in cash from benefit shows. There will be a large benefit for him on January 6, 2017 at King’s Barcade in downtown Raleigh presented by Beer & Banjos featuring Hank, Pattie & The Current and special guests.”
A second GoFundMe page has been established to help Juana’s family bear with funeral expenses.
Another opportunity to support Hiro’s recovery comes from Nick DiSebastian, who has created a transcription of Arakawa’s arrangement of Whiskey Before Breakfast which he performed in this video for Raleigh’s News & Observer during World of Bluegrass 2016.