Feb. 8, 2021 By Christina Santucci
An Astoria woman raised nearly $30,000 for her father’s medical care after a video she posted on TikTok went viral.
Kat Downer, 28, launched a GoFundMe last month with a goal of raising $9,000 — but her emotional post about the plight of her sick father helped raise more than three times that amount.
“This one video changed our entire lives in the span of a night,” she said.
Kat’s heart-wrenching video, where she tells her father that she loves him, generated more than 20 million views and more than six million likes. The post directed viewers to her GoFundMe page.
“People would donate $1 or $5, and some people I didn’t even know would donate $700,” she said. “I was on the floor in disbelief crying.”
Now she hopes to put part of the money from the GoFundMe toward a down payment on a new family home. That way her father, Mike, who suffered a massive stroke four years ago, can live with his wife – instead of in a nursing home.
“Not only do I have hope to improve his quality of life, I also have the hope that we will be able to take him home, and that is honestly life changing,” she said.
Mike Downer, her dad, suffered a stroke in March 2017 and was left unable to talk, walk and eat on his own.
Insurance, Kat said, only covered his rehab costs for a short period of time, and then the former engineer from England was moved to a nursing home on Long Island.
His wife Darlene—and his family– visited frequently and worked with him to try to improve his motor skills and prevent further decline.
Meanwhile, Kat sought out information on an alternative treatment – hyperbaric oxygen therapy – that she hoped could help her father. The therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a special pressurized chamber, which promotes healing by bringing oxygen to the parts of the brain affected by a stroke.
Kat struggled to pay for the therapy. She dipped into student loans and supplemented her job as a pharmacy technician with dog walking, pet sitting and driving an Uber – all while studying nursing at LIU Brooklyn.
But she cobbled together funds for Mike’s treatment. Her father completed 20 sessions — half of the recommended amount — before the pandemic hit, and the therapy was suspended.
“COVID happened, and I was out of money honestly,” she said.
In December, Kat decided to launch her GoFundMe to pay for another round of treatment for her father.
Kat, with the influx of funds, had hoped to resume her father’s hyperbaric oxygen therapy on Feb. 1. But the therapy has been delayed — yet again — because she contracted COVID-19. Kat is the only person able to bring him to the treatment facility near his nursing home.
Still, she remains hopeful that she will be able to see — and hug — her father soon.
Kat said she is also thankful to have the TikTok videos as mementos of her father.
“One day he will be gone, and I will miss him, but I have this moment between us,” she said. “I can show it to my own kids when I have them. If they never get to meet him, I can show it to them and say this is your grandad. He really loved us, and we loved him.”