BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) — As a paramedic, nothing would stop Sara Cathey from stepping up to save a life. As it turned out, the South Carolina EMS worker was able to help one of her own family members.
It was a devastating day when she 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,” said Sara.
The whole family took tests to find out who might be a kidney match.
“You never think it’s going to be you,” she 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.”
Sara was a perfect, 100% match to donate a kidney to Natalyn, but her weight stood in the way. The aunt was about 270 pounds at the time. 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,” said Sara.
Instead of giving up, she started trying to lose weight.
“It was all the motivation I needed. I had a great support team, my family 110% stood behind me,” said Sara. “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.”
She said her biggest cheerleader was also her smallest.
“When she was in the hospital and I was on the treadmill, we would FaceTime,” Sara smiled. “Natalyn would cheer for me. That’s all the motivation I needed, truly.”
“She brightens my day,” she said of her niece. “Makes any bad day good.”
Through diet and a lot of exercise, the Beaufort County paramedic 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,'” said Erika Mann, Natalyn’s mom. “I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to be there for her.”
Sara 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 says it will be worth it.
“She’s going to be good,” said a teary-eyed Sara. “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,'” Sara smiled. “‘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.