YARMOUTH, NS – The mother of a baby from Yarmouth County cannot ever imagine leaving her son’s side as she and her family await a desperately-needed liver transplant for her son Owen.
“I can’t leave him. I couldn’t imagine being so little and waking up in a strange place and different people poking you,” says Paige Comeau. “He needs my support 100 percent so I’m by his side until this is done. I’m prepared to live in a hospital as long as I have to.”
A GoFundMe campaign is underway to support the Yarmouth County family whose baby Owen is in desperate need of a liver transplant.
The online fundraiser – ‘4 month old Owen needs a liver transplant now‘ – was initiated several weeks ago by Owen’s parents Paige Comeau and Bruce LeBlanc, who are asking for help to cover the costs of travel, food and medical expenses.
“Owen was born April 30, 2021, with a condition called biliary atresia,” reads the GoFundMe introduction. “It’s a narrowing, blockage, non-existent bile ducts.
“Biliary atresia (BA) is a fatal condition, resulting in the lack of effective biliary drainage leading invariably to liver failure and cirrhosis within a year, and it is often lethal within a few months in the absence of corrective surgery or liver transplantation,” the fundraiser goes on to explain.
Little Owen already had three surgeries at just two months old.
The family has been in Toronto where Owen is being assessed for a liver transplant at the SickKids – The Hospital for Sick Children.
“They said to expect a 10-to-30 day stay but there’s also the possibility of going back to the IWK, but Owen wouldn’t be able to go home. We have to live in the hospital until his transplant because he’s not stable,” said Comeau in an interview.
Comeau is living in the hospital with her son, while Owen’s dad Bruce is only allowed in to visit due to restrictions.
Owen’s liver function, meanwhile, has been getting worse.
“He’s developed a condition called ascites where food builds on the belly. He has to have medication every day to try and release some of that fluid because the pressure builds up and makes him extremely uncomfortable in pain,” Comeau says.
Getting Owen’s nutrition in a healthier state is key in advance of the potential transplant. “He basically needs double what a healthy baby does just to function,” his mother says.
Owen is on the transplant list for a cadaver liver and once his assessment is completed and it’s confirmed he is a compatible recipient the transplant team will move forward in that process.
“If we can find a live liver donor it speeds up the process a little bit,” says Comeau, who must be six months postpartum before being considered a potential donor.
After Owen’s tests and assessment are completed, his condition will be graded by a point system to determine the severity.
“Who’s the sickest baby gets it first,” says Comeau, adding there are currently 300 people waiting for liver transplants in Canada.
It cost the family just under $1,500 to travel to Toronto for the assessment. Then there will be travel back to the IWK in Halifax, and then back to Toronto for the transplant, so they are looking at $8,000 just in travel expenses alone, Comeau says.
The cost to stay in a hotel in Toronto for a week is $1,000 and that’s at the hospital rate, she says.
At the time this story was written, the family had set a $15,000 goal through the GoFundMe campaign. As of the morning of Sept. 27, donations had exceeded $7,500. The GoFundMe account also includes daily updates from Owen’s mother on his condition.
Comeau says there has been “outstanding support from friends, family, community.”
“I’m amazed how many times the post has been shared. Even little donations add up. We’re just so thankful that it did something… He’s (Bruce) missing work,” she says.
“Really, the last thing I want to worry about is money. I just want to be here for Owen and focus on what he is going through and how I can help him be comfortable,” the mom says.
Comeau says she has been in contact with a lot of people who have gone through such experiences, and who have reached out and shared their experiences, whether it be for the same condition or something similar.
“With that support, I’m very thankful. I felt alone, I didn’t know what was happening, why it is was happening how common it was,” she says.
“I’ve got all the faith in the world. Everybody has made me feel 100 times better about this situation,” she adds.
“I really found it in me to believe, to think positive, be positive – just don’t focus on the what ifs, the maybes and the risks. Understand them, of course, but don’t dwell on them. We spent many days not knowing what was going to happen. Crying but that doesn’t help him. We’ve got to be happy, positive, and show him that we are here for him and everything is going to be okay.”
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