Cassidy Goya’s Inspiring Battle With A Liver Transplant


Jamie Goya

Cassidy Goya with her sister Autumn Goya spending quality sister time at the hospital.

By Carly Kaneshiro, Mid-Pacific Institute

Cassidy Goya was once a normal Mid-Pacific student-athlete in the class of ’25 before an unimaginable sickness affected her tremendously, resulting in a liver transplant in January.

Before this drastic procedure, Goya was a normal 15-year-old.

For instance, Goya loves sports. Softball has always been special in her life since a young age. After watching her older sister play, Goya started playing at age seven with the Mānoa Softball League.

“She just loved it and she would want to go outside to try and throw and catch with me, so I would have to try to catch and throw for her,” Cassidy’s mother, Jamie Goya said.

Mid-Pacific’s girl’s softball sending prayers to Cassidy Goya the day of her liver transplant. (Jamie Goya)

Following this, Cassidy joined the softball club, Strikers, for several years before enrolling in Mid-Pacific to play for the school.

Since playing for Mid-Pacific’s Varsity 2 softball team, Cassidy feels she’s built a strong relationship with her teammates, nurturing her love for the sport.

“The bond you have with your teammates and your coaches really makes the practices and games enjoyable,” Cassidy said.

However, in September 2022, things took a sharp turn for Cassidy, as her health began to breakdown.

“For a couple of weeks, she was very lethargic and tired, until one day after softball practice her dad noticed that her eyes were yellow,” Jamie said.

Worried, Cassidy’s parents took her to the hospital where they discovered that she had jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) and elevated liver numbers.

The cause of Cassidy’s symptoms was unknown for a while until they discovered it was due to an antibiotic that was prescribed by her dermatologist. The hyper-inflammatory response caused by the antibiotic damaged her bile ducts causing Vanishing Bile Duct syndrome, an extremely rare disease that has very minimal research.

Bile ducts in the body are used to transport bile from the liver to other parts of the body. Bile contains acid to help with the process of breaking down fats and proteins in the body during digestion.

“We found out by doing a biopsy on her liver that the bile ducts have actually vanished,” Jamie said.

Cassidy Goya being air lifted back to Stanford, California for further treatment on December 26, 2022. (Jamie Goya)

In November 2022, Cassidy and her family headed to Stanford, California to receive treatment.

The fear of the unknown and staying in an unfamiliar place for a prolonged period of time made Cassidy’s family uneasy.

“When we initially found out, it was very scary. We were really scared for her,” Jamie said.

Not only did she have to leave Hawai’i, but being away from her older sister who was back home was a huge struggle for Cassidy.

“I didn’t see her for two months and then she flew up during her spring break, but I couldn’t see her for a while, so that was difficult,” Cassidy said.

After the treatment at Stanford, Cassidy was cleared to return home to Hawai’i for Thanksgiving. Though her health continued to decline and her liver began to fail, Cassidy and her family traveled back to Stanford for further treatment during Christmas.

Following additional treatment and tests, Cassidy received her liver transplant on January 27, 2023.

Since then, Cassidy has been in a four-month recovery period, with her main focus being on stabilizing her health.

“We have been on this journey, and it was kind of a roller coaster with ups and downs because she has had a lot of complications after the surgery,” Jamie said.

The post-transplant recovery process was very taxing on Cassidy’s body with many things not going as planned.

“I had a ton of complications, so after the transplant I had seven post-op procedures, pancreatitis, and both of my lungs have collapsed,” Cassidy said.

During this time, Cassidy and her family have been staying at the Ronald McDonald House, which has been a tremendous support to the family.

Cassidy Goya celebrating with Stanford Hospital Nurses upon her release from the hospital on March 9, 2023. (Jamie Goya)

“I don’t know what we would’ve done without the Ronald McDonald house, because it has provided us housing that’s also walking distance from the hospital,” Jamie said.

Ronald McDonald does not only provide housing, but a school that Cassidy attends.

“There’s a teacher at the Ronald McDonald House, which is how I will be able to receive my credits for this semester,” Cassidy said.

Despite the hardships Cassidy faces, she highlights great moments throughout it all and maintains her positive attitude.

“The day I got discharged from the hospital and the day I received my transplant were really great days,” Cassidy said.

Through it all, the support Cassidy has received has been crucial for her and her family.

“Support from friends, family, and even from strangers we don’t know have donated and sent cards to her and our family,” Cassidy said.

One of her most treasured sources of support is Cassidy’s coach, Aiko Gojo. Gojo visited Cassidy Goya and her family the day before they left for California for the second time.

“I was kind of surprised because I was like ‘Don’t you have to be with your family during christmas?’ but she was very supportive of me,” Cassidy said.

Additionally, Rob DeMello and University of Hawai’i at Mānoa athletes showed their love to Cassidy.

DeMello, KHON Sports Anchor, brought public attention to Cassidy’s journey through a video story. It included how she has inspired so many athletes.

“I got a lot of support from the story that Rob DeMello did, so the softball team was really supportive and the linebackers from the Hawai’i football team also supported me, and that was really nice,” Cassidy said.

Throughout everything, Cassidy has missed playing softball dearly.

“I just miss practice and how I would feel so nice afterwards. I also miss my friends and my coaches too,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy’s hardships don’t stop her from her future aspirations involving softball.

“Next year I am hoping, even if I don’t play, that I could just be a part of the team and maybe help with score keeping. Eventually, I hope to be able to play again,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy has become an inspiration to so many because of her positivity and strength despite her many challenges.

“ Even though she has had some very difficult hardships, she has always persevered and found the strength to carry on, and probably with a smile on her face,” Gojo said.

Cassidy’s teammates wish to play softball with her again and feel the energy she holds on the field. They assure her that she will always have a place with them, no matter what.

“I just want to see her smile again, and I can’t wait to play ball with her again,” teammate Kristie Kagawa said.

Today, Cassidy Goya’s experiences have brought a new life perspective.

“Everything that happened made me realize that there’s more important things in life than just grades and looks, and it made me realize how fragile life is, and that it can all change just like that,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy graciously wishes to use her experiences to educate and help others in the future.

“I hope to do volunteer work to raise awareness about organ donation, because it’s very generous and a very special thing to be able to help someone else,” Cassidy said.

This story was originally published on Na Pueo on May 23, 2023.