A big day for Keaton and his mom

October 19, 2017
Keaton and Vanessa Cabana

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.

Keaton, Matthew and Vanessa Cabana

“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.

Keaton Cabana dressed as a pumpkin

“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.

Leave a Comment

This story brought tears of joy. Your incredible strength during this time is so amazing. We miss you all here and can't wait to hug you all when you get home. Much love to everyone xoxoxo
22/10/2017 4:50:31 PM

Our thoughts are with Vanessa, Matthew and Keaton. My wife gave the gift of life to our son 2 1/2 years ago and he is doing great. I wish you only the same speedy recovery. Sick Kids and RMHC were terrific as we also came from Fredericton and needed a home away from home. Wishing the Cabana family a healthy and quick return to the Maritimes.
20/10/2017 8:43:52 PM

Vanessa and Matthew..you guys are such an inspiration. I look forward to near daily updates on facebook regarding little Keaton. I can't wait till you get home so I will have the pleasure of holding him again. You guys are such an amazing family. Much love and tons of prayers for you all. Love Pat
19/10/2017 12:19:35 PM

Peter G
My son had to undergo surgery at Sick Kids only days after his birth. We were just inside the limits to qualify for the RMHC but were allowed access to the living room in the hospital. It meant the world to have a place to relax and feel at home during such a difficult time. I know these are scary times, but we should all be thankful to all the people behind the scenes and those who have sacrificed to help all of us who they may never get to meet but have done so much to change our lives forever.
19/10/2017 11:45:22 AM

My daughter Delfina was also born with Biliary Atresia and I too had the honour of donating. I recall the excitement jitters while I was prepped at TGH while my baby girl awaited the "gift of life" a short tunnel walk away at Sick Kids. The Ronald McDonald room at SickKids was a much needed place to rest our bodies and our minds. Thank you for allowing me to relive those amazing good-feel jitters! Wishing Vanessa and Keaton a speedy recovery and a life long enjoyment of good health.
19/10/2017 11:13:10 AM

Alicia Zabolotney
I was a donor for my sons transplant in 2016, same condition. :) all will go smoothly, you'll feel better everyday and your baby will bounce back so very quickly! It's an amazing process! Good luck and praying for you today!
19/10/2017 9:53:42 AM

I had the pleasure of meeting this lovely family while we were staying RMHT this September. Thank you so much for the update as I think about them often and have wondered how they are all doing.
Wishing them ass the best xo
19/10/2017 8:02:30 AM

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