A family who lost their five-year-old daughter is hailing their late little girl as a “superhero” after she saved three other lives.

Five-year-old Cathy Kassis developed a common cold last month that quickly progressed into something far more sinister.

Cathy, from Bathurst in NSW, developed a croupy cough on day three, then completely lost her voice after five days.

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“That never happened before,” Cathy’s stepdad Justin told Kidspot.

“We’d taken her to a doctor, and it was initially put down as a viral infection. She started having really bad breathing attacks, almost like asthma, so I got her an inhaler as a cautionary thing to give her comfort.”

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“We thought Cathy was being brushed off”

Justin said Cathy’s mum Jasmine took the five-year-old to the emergency department, but they only tested for Covid and RSV before sending her home.

“They told us to keep doing steam baths with eucalyptus oil, and the ventolin was helping to control her breathing,” Justin said. “It was just a ‘viral infection’ and we had to ride out.

“Jasmine took a video of Cathy’s breathing on a Sunday with plans to take her back to the ED on Monday to show them what was happening, because we thought Cathy was being brushed off.”

Unfortunately, Jasmine would never get to use the video, as Cathy stopped breathing on the Sunday night.

“Jasmine brought her out to me and she was sort of fading in and out of consciousness, and she was turning blue around her lips and nose,” Justin said.

“I rang Triple 0 at midnight and did CPR on her for about 15 minutes before the paramedics took over, but she was unconscious and not breathing while I was doing that.

“They spent 78 minutes, including my 15, doing CPR before they got a heartbeat back.”

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“She ended up saving three lives”

Cathy was flown to Westmead Children’s Hospital where doctors ran more tests and found Strep A through a throat swab.

Tragically, the family did not know the seriousness of Cathy’s condition until she’d passed away.

Cathy was declared brain dead on the 28th of August, and the family made the brave decision to have some of her organs donated.

“That happened on September 1, which was Organ Donation Day,” Justin said.

“From a terrible situation that we’re going through, there’s some happiness to come at the end of it.

“She ended up saving three lives, two little children who are expected to make full recoveries, and a young adult who she donated a kidney to.”

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“She’s a real-life superhero in our eyes”

Justin said the processes from his local doctors, and the steps they didn’t take, would be a “fight for another day”, but his family was remembering their “superhero” daughter for her final act.

“Cathy managed to save lives, and we want to celebrate what she was able to achieve out of a terrible situation,” he said.

“We want to give Cathy the send off she deserves and we want her to have, because she’s a real-life superhero in our eyes.

“For all we know those other families were sitting there like us expecting to lose a child, and now they’ve got a donor. That’s brought us happiness in such a heart-breaking time.

“We only expected to help one person, and that would have been enough, but to help three is incredible. It’s hard to find the words to describe it.”

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“The support has been incredible”

Cathy will be laid to rest this week, giving her mum and dad and three siblings, Isabella, Destiny and Thor, one more chance to say goodbye to their beloved youngest sister.

Another father from Cathy’s school has started a GoFundMe to help the family through any financial difficulties arising from the terrible situation.

“The support from the community has been awesome,” Justin said. “They’ve really come together, and we didn’t expect any of it.

“The guy who started the GoFundMe was a random dad at school, his son was in Cathy’s class, and we’re so grateful to him.

“To see everyone coming to support and help us is really incredible.”

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“You can’t appreciate the work they do until you’ve seen it first hand”

Justin also praised the paramedics, doctors and staff at Westmead Hospital who gently guided the family through their darkest days.

“You can’t fully appreciate the work they do until you’ve seen it first hand,” Justin said.

“The staff helped us with canvases so we could take Cathy’s hand prints and foot prints. We made a flower with her fingerprints and a butterfly from her thumb prints.

“You don’t think about that at the time, so having someone provide the resources like that is amazing.

“They gave us two hospital gowns that we wrote messages to Cathy on, and she wore those during her donation surgery. They played a list of songs she liked during the surgery, and there was a photo slideshow the doctors watched.

“That’s why we hold organ donation at Westmead very close to our hearts now, and we’ll continue helping them out in the future however we can.”

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