October 19, 2017
This morning, Vanessa Cabana is giving her son, Keaton, an amazing gift. She is donating a piece of her liver to save his life.
Vanessa and her husband, Matthew, from Fredericton, N.B., have been living at Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Toronto for the past three months while Keaton awaits his liver transplant. Born prematurely in March 2017 with a disease called biliary atresia, Keaton has struggled to gain weight and stay nourished without a functioning liver. Though doctors had hoped he could wait a couple of years before needing a transplant, he cannot.
“His disease makes him feel sick all the time,” says Vanessa. “He has short moments of being alert and happy, but otherwise he’s very uncomfortable.”
Seeing Keaton’s pain day in and day out is what’s motivating Vanessa to face her fears and proceed with the organ donation.
“At the beginning of this process, I thought there was no way I could do it,” she says. “Now, months later, I’ve had enough. I can’t wait until he feels better, and that’s what’s giving me the courage to do this.”
Today Vanessa is undergoing a six- to eight-hour surgery at Toronto General Hospital. Doctors will remove 25 per cent of her liver, then immediately deliver it via underground tunnels to an operating room at SickKids where Keaton will be waiting to receive it. If all goes well, Vanessa will be reunited with Keaton on Sunday. She hopes he will be discharged to RMHC Toronto in about a month.
“This House is so important,” says Matthew. “Donors should know that they’re doing a lot to help make an expensive, foreign city affordable for families like ours.”
Their gratitude extends beyond financial support, however. Matthew and Vanessa have felt emotionally supported during their months at the House as well.
“There are so many people in this House, but it never feels crowded,” says Vanessa. “The unspoken support between families is just amazing, and it makes you feel more normal in a scary situation.”
There is still “a long journey” ahead for Keaton post-transplant, but his parents are counting down the days until their little man is healthy and happy. They’re also counting their blessings.
“What would we do without RMHC Toronto? This is the best place ever.”
Stay tuned to our social media channels for an update on how Keaton and Vanessa are doing.