BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) –- As a paramedic, nothing could stop Sara Cathey from stepping up to save a life.
So when the time came to help save one of her own family members, the Beaufort EMS worker didn’t hesitate.
“She brightens my day,” Cathey said of her niece, Natalyn. “Makes any bad day good.”
It was a devastating day when Cathey found out that 2-year-old Natalyn had a genetic condition that nearly killed her.
“She had a double nephrectomy, so both her kidneys got removed June of last year,” Cathey said.
The whole family took tests to find out who might be a kidney match.
“You never think it’s going to be you,” Cathey said. “I am out here every day with strangers. I love these strangers. I really enjoy being a paramedic, helping people. I get emotionally invested with these complete strangers. So I can’t really explain how much it really hits when it’s her.”
Cathey turned out to be a 100% match to donate a kidney to Natalyn, but her weight stood in the way. She was about 270 pounds at the time and, according to doctors, she was not physically fit enough to make the donation.
“I save complete strangers on a daily basis. There was nothing that was going to stand in my way,” she said.
Instead of giving up, she stepped up and started losing weight.
“It was all the motivation I needed,” she said. “I had a great support team, my family 110% stood behind me. My co-workers, they are eating salads with me. The fire department is eating salads with me. The ER department is hiding the snacks so I don’t eat them when I come in.”
Her biggest cheerleader was her smallest one.
“When she was in the hospital and I was on the treadmill, we would Facetime,” Cathey said. “Natalyn would cheer for me. That’s all the motivation I needed, truly.”
Through diet and a lot of exercise, Cathey lost 125 pounds in just over one year and was cleared by the doctors for surgery.
“She didn’t even know she was a match and said, ‘I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it for her,'” Erika Mann, Natalyn’s mom, said. “I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to be there for her.”
Cathey and Natalyn go under the knife next week. There’s recovery time ahead for both. Natalyn will be in the hospital for a few weeks, and Sara off the job for two to three months.
But everyone knows it will be worth it.
“She’s going to be good,” Cathey said through tears. “She’s got her second chance, and we are doing it. We are doing it.”
Because of the live donor and family match, the hope is that Natalyn won’t have to worry about another kidney for almost 20 years.
This pair is positive — already making plans for after surgery.
“She keeps saying, ‘Nope, I don’t need to eat,'” Cathey said. “‘Not until Aunt Sara gives me her kidney. When I get Aunt Sara’s kidney, I can have my macaroni.’
“That’s all she wants is some macaroni and chocolate, and she’s going to get it. And I am going to eat some mac and cheese with her. I think I’ve earned some mac and cheese.”
If you would like to help the family with expenses, a GoFundMe has been set up in Natalyn’s name.
You can also give to Cathey at @sara-Cathey-5 or @Erika-Mann-2113 on Venmo.