Former Hollis resident thanks officer who saved his life as a baby
HOLLIS – In May 1991, Robert Nathan Cathcart, known as Nate, only 13 months old at the time, was sick with a slight fever. His mother, Terri Cathcart, was periodically going upstairs to check on him.
The last time she went up, she noticed her baby’s fever had spiked – according to Telegraph reports at the time, it had reached 106 degrees.
The spike in fever had triggered a seizure, and he was choking on something, rapidly turning blue.
Nate’s father, Rob Cathcart, was trained in CPR, but not infant CPR, so he held the baby upside down to try to clear his airway, hearing little gasps from the boy as he struggled to catch his breath, according to retellings of the night’s events.
The family lived on a dirt road set nearly 600 feet back from the main street, Nate Cathcart said.
“Even in the daylight, you’d never know it was there,” he said.
Because of this, paramedics were having a hard time locating the house.
Nate’s older sister, only 6 years old at the time, was yelling “the baby is going to die,” according to Telegraph archives.
Luckily, Russell Ux, then-Chief of the Hollis Police Department, heard the call on the radio, “went flying down the driveway,” Cathcart said, “demolishing their fence,” and “leaving 60 feet of tire marks on the driveway” according to Hollis Police Chief Joseph Hoebeke. Ux then ran inside the house.
The next few minutes were a blur as Rob Cathcart handed Nate over to Ux (Nate Cathcart said, in later years his father said he “rugby pitched” the baby into Ux’s arms) and the officer gave him a quick “rap on the back,” and Nate vomited on the floor, clearing his airway.
The paramedics arrived shortly after and took him to St. Joseph Hospital.
Ux had arrived at the house within a minute. Robert Cathcart said at the time, “He must have driven like Mario Andretti to get (from) where he was to where we were.”
It was a night that Cathcart said his mother still has a hard time talking about, calling it one of the worst nights of her life.
Now, Cathcart is 27 years old, works in software sales and lives with his girlfriend, Caroline Alves in Boston.
Growing up hearing the story of how Ux saved his life has given him a deep appreciation for law enforcement, as well as a greater understanding of “what a big deal” it was that Ux showed up when he did.
“Not everyone in those situations comes out on the other side,” he said.
His parents could have lost a child; maybe his younger brother, Wiley Cathcart, would never have been born; none of the people he has met in his life would have met him, he mused.
“It would be so easy to go down that rabbit hole,” he said. “There have been many times in my life that I have wanted to reach out to him” to say thank you.
Last week he finally got that chance.
Hoebeke was checking a police email account when he came across a message from a young man who wanted Ux’s contact information to thank him for saving his life as a baby.
Hoebeke, who still meets with Ux frequently, had a better idea: He would invite the Cathcart family down to the station and surprise Ux.
“Only maybe once in your career can you bring people together like that,” Hoebeke said. “It was the right thing to do.”
For Cathcart, the opportunity to thank the man who saved his life, in an event he obviously doesn’t remember, was very meaningful.
“He’s such a humble guy, and he has a long career of being a stand-up citizen,” Cathcart said. “It makes me sad I didn’t get to know him more when I was younger,” although, he admitted, they have now agreed to stay in touch.
As for Ux, he said he remembers the day like it was yesterday.
“I think a higher power was there with us that day,” he said, adding that his success was a mixture of training, luck and timing.
“Not all these stories have a happy ending.”
The call taught him the importance of training young officers to be able to react quickly, because “it’s not a question of if it’ll happen, it’s a question of when,” he said.
He was just doing his job, just as he did every other day on the force: It was not the first life he saved, and it would not be the last.
“I was just doing what I was trained to do,” he said. “What makes this story special is Nate.”
Upon entering the room, Ux was surprised to see all the people there. He didn’t recognize Cathcart, since he had not known him as an adult, but immediately recognized his parents. Ux was thanked many times in his career (just like all first responders, he pointed out) but never after 27 years.
“It was humbling to say the least,” Ux said. “Very humbling, very meaningful.”
Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.