Yannick hits the keyboard, making a loud, discordant sound.
The noise is worth it for the smile it elicits from him – bright and toothy, with laughter behind it. Until now, smiles have been a rarity for the four-year-old.
His parents, Vida and Yves Rabu, attribute this happy change to his stay at Matthew’s House in Abbotsford.
The facility is a home away from home that provides respite care for children with complex health-care issues.
A child’s stay at Matthew’s House gives parents a chance to rest and rejuvenate. Knowing that their child is cared for in a safe and loving environment means parents like Vida and Yves can take a break with peace of mind.
Yannick faces many challenges – cerebral palsy, global development delay and seizures.
He has respiratory issues that require him to be suctioned so that he can breathe easily, is diapered and needs a wheelchair.
Just last April, he was hospitalized with pneumonia and respiratory syncytial virus. Weather changes are often a challenge for him, making breathing more difficult. Coughing seems to bring on seizures.
All of these challenges mean that Yannick needs constant, expert care. It also means that his parents don’t often get a break. Still, the Rabu family is remarkably positive.
Yannick loves to watch TV and listen to music. He also enjoys sitting in the kitchen as meals are being prepared. His sister Anggun, 11, helps tend to her brother’s daily needs, changing diapers, feeding, doing exercises with him or reading to him.
“I love him for who he is,” she says. “I love to hug and kiss him, read and play with him.”
The Rabus first learned of Matthew’s House when it was being built on the Campus of Care adjacent to Abbotsford Regional Hospital.
Yannick was one of the first children to stay at Matthew’s House when it opened in November 2013.
In May of this year, he had an extended stay while his family travelled to Orlando and that’s when positive changes in his health were first noticed.
“We began to notice that he was moving more and responding to questions,” said Wendy Toohey, who manages the home.
“We only had to suction him at night and we noticed that he was beginning to clear his throat on his own. His speech therapist was amazed when he saw that Yannick was not only responding but imitating animal noises that we made with him, and he was smiling so much.”
Vida and Yves were overjoyed when they saw how Yannick had improved while they were away.
“We had never seen him being that way, smiling so much, making sounds and even laughing,” Vida said. “Is it because Matthew’s House is a new building with clean air circulation? Is it because it’s quiet? Or is it because he got all that attention from the lovely, caring staff?”
The Rabus are sure that Yannick will spend more time at Matthew’s House.
“Matthew’s House is just like our second home to us,” Vida said. “It eases the burden for a while.”
The facility costs $860,000 each year to operate, with nearly all of the funds raised by donation. For more information or to make a donation, visits mattshouse.ca.