Katie and Dalton Prager, a couple whose romance had been compared to the story of The Fault in Our Stars, died within days of each other, and both from complications of cystic fibrosis, an inherited disorder that damages the lungs and digestive system. Time reports that Katie died Thursday morning, just days after her husband passed away.
Dalton and Katie met on Facebook when they were just 18. According to CNN, Katie noticed that Dalton's mother had posted a photo of her son in the hospital, and commented, "If you ever need a friend to talk to, you can reach out to me." They fell in love online and bonded over their shared medical battles, but doctors told them they shouldn't meet in person because Dalton had an infection that could spread to her.
But they went against medical recommendations and traveled six hours to meet. For their first date, they rode rollercoasters, and less than two years later, they were married and bought a house together. They had planned on traveling to all 50 states and writing a book about their romance, but those plans faded away when health complications separated them.
Katie did catch Dalton's infection, and both of them ended up needing lung transplants. Dalton developed lymphoma as a result of his transplant, but beat that before developing pneumonia and a viral infection. Katie never fully recovered from her lung infection, and the last time they saw each other in person was July 16, their fifth anniversary. Dalton went to a hospital near his family in Missouri to fight complications from his transplant, and Katie ended up in hospice care in Kentucky near her family.
They had hoped to reunite in Kentucky once Dalton was discharged, but his health continued to fail. The two spoke on FaceTime during Dalton's final moments. "She told him that she loved him," Katie's mother, Debra Donovan, told CNN. "We don't know if he heard her." He died September 17 at the age of 25.
Less than a week later, Katie died due to the disease herself, at just age 26. Donovan posted about her daughter's death on a Facebook page dedicated to sharing the couple's stories. "Early this morning, she gained her wish of being at home, in her bed, surrounded by her mom, dad, brother and her dogs, dying peacefully, away from the hospital, tubes, IVs," she wrote. "I know Dalton was waiting with open arms, as well as both her grandmothers and a host of family and friends that have gone before her."
Both Katie and Dalton spread the message that they would rather have a few years of being in love than decades being apart. "One important thing I have taken away from this is to live, just live," Donovan wrote on Facebook. "If there is something you want to do, don't wait. Life is short. Love as hard as you can." Katie and her family set up a YouCaring account to pay for a "celebration of life;" the account has already raised more than $31,000.
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