This love story of a young couple battling a genetic disease that causes lung infections was likened to that of the fictional teenage cancer-stricken couple in the movie “The Fault in Our Stars,” except that this love story was not fictional.
Katie and Dalton Prager’s seed of love was planted in 2009 when the then 18-year-old teenagers met each other on Facebook. “If you ever need a friend to talk to, you can reach out to me,” Katie wrote. And Dalton did.
Both were suffering from cystic fibrosis, and due to their similar circumstances, they bonded with each other right away. They knew they had found their soul mates.
Dalton had an infection called Burkholderia cepacia, and doctors warned Katie not to meet Dalton in person, as catching the bacteria from him could be dangerous for people with cystic fibrosis. But love-struck Katie insisted on following her heart, despite the danger. The couple met at Flemingsburg’s Dairy Queen in Kentucky on Aug. 28, 2009.
Katie was nervous and her heart was pounding upon meeting Dalton, who arrived looking handsome in his pair of sunglasses. The couple fell in love with each other instantly, and just as the doctors had predicted, Dalton’s bacteria was passed on to Katie immediately.
Like in a fairy tale, the couple tied the knot on July 16, 2011, when they were 20 years old. They lived happily for the next few years.
On Nov. 17, 2014, Dalton got his lung transplant, and Katie got hers in July 2015. One might think their fairy tale would have a happy ending after the transplant, but that was not the case.
Dalton wasn’t too well and developed lymphoma. After winning the battle with cancer, he was down with pneumonia and a viral infection, and was hospitalized in Missouri.
Katie’s body, on the other hand, rejected her new lung. The doctors told her they couldn’t find a cure, after which she was admitted to a hospice in Kentucky.
The couple was separated because of illness. They last saw each other on July 16, 2016, when they celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary.
Knowing that their time was limited, they had hoped for an early Christmas reunion. Dalton was ready for the trip but, tragically, the 25-year-old couldn’t pull through and died in St. Louis hospital, 400 miles (about 644 km) away from Katie’s hospice, on Sept. 17, 2016. The couple shared their last moments with each other chatting through FaceTime.
Just five days later, 26-year-old Katie followed suit, and passed away peacefully, surrounded by her family and pet dog.
She once told CNN she had no regrets meeting Dalton: “I’d rather have five years of being in love and just really completely happy than 20 years of not having anybody.”
“One important thing I have taken away from this is to live, just live…if there is something you want to do, don’t wait. Life is short, love as hard as you can,” Katie’s mother, Debbie, wrote on Facebook.