It was sickness that brought Dalton and Katie Prager together, and now it's also sickness that's keeping them apart.
Dalton and Katie both have cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition that leads to thick mucus building up in the pancreas, lungs and other organs. In their case, Dalton and Katie have the condition in their lungs. When present in the lungs, cystic fibrosis leads to mucus blocking airways, which makes it hard to breathe. And because mucus can also trap bacteria, infections are also commonplace.
And that's what made meeting up for the first time in person problematic for the two.
Initially, Dalton and Katie met when they were just 18 years old on Facebook. Katie had messaged Dalton to let him know that she understood what he was going through and that she was just there if he needed someone to talk to.
Over the course of their online conversations, the two realized that they were developing feelings for each other, and so must absolutely meet. Unfortunately, it's dangerous for people with cystic fibrosis to come face-to-face with each other because they can transmit infections to each other, further crippling their already-fragile lungs.
Dalton understood the consequences, especially when he was already harboring a dangerous infection called Burkholderia cepacia, so he left the decision to meet up completely to Katie.
"I told Dalton I'd rather be happy — like really, really happy — for five years of my life and die sooner than be mediocre happy and live for 20 years," she said.
Both their healths quickly deteriorated after that first meeting and within months they were both using oxygen full time. They had hope though: they were waiting on the transplant list for new lungs.
Also, they got married.
In 2014, Dalton was the first to undergo a lung transplant. And even with Burkholderia cepacia, the procedure was a success.
After a few complications, Katie also got her new set of lungs, and was ready to embark on a 50-state road trip with Dalton — something they had always dreamed they would do after their transplants.
Unfortunately, something went wrong with Katie's transplant and she was put into hospice at home recently. Doctors said there's nothing more they can do and the girl who spent her last year and a half in and out of the hospital is tired.
Katie just wants to be with Dalton in her final days but that too is a wish that can't easily be granted as her husband is also sick at the moment. He's staying at St. Louis' Barnes-Jewish Hospital fighting off a virus and pneumonia.
Hopefully Dalton will be discharged next week but there is also a plan to fly him to the University of Kentucky Medical Center as soon as possible so he'll be closer to her.
"If we only get to spend a day and a night together, we'll be happy with that," said Katie.
Photo: David Amsler | Flickr