Real life 'Fault in Our Stars': Couple fights cystic fibrosis

It's a romance that started on Facebook, because of the lung disease Cystic Fibrosis. Dalton and Katie Prager hope there's a happy ending.

For 24-year-old Dalton Prager of St. Charles County, cystic fibrosis has been a challenge for years.

"Our lungs are dying," said Prager, "and when your lungs are dying, the rest of your body systems, they follow."

But without his illness, Dalton wouldn't have met the love of his life, Katie Donovan while he was attending Francis Howell High School. Six years ago Katie wrote to Dalton on Facebook because she too has cystic fibrosis.

Dalton's Facebook response ?

"'Do I know you?' Normally if I got a message from somebody with CF or something along those lines I would usually ignore it," said Dalton.

But Katie would not be ignored. Dalton, 18 at the time, said he was struggling physicially and emotionally. It wasn't long before he fell for the Kentucky girl with cystic fibrosis.

"She saved me," said Dalton. "Really she saved me from myself."

A 2011 marriage photo is proof Dalton and Katie followed their hearts, while ignoring their doctors who told them not to meet in person, because each could make the other sicker from infection.

"When you feel like your time is running out, throw caution to the wind and you do what makes you happy," said Dalton.

Dalton received a lung transplant last year at a Pittsburgh hospital, and said he often thinks about the donor.

"They were from a male who was about my age," said Dalton. "Couple of years older and he was very athletic. I think about him and the donor's family every day."

Katie Prager continues to wait for her transplant. Katie's Kentucky hospital doesn't perform the surgery she needs because of infection complications from cepacia. Medicaid denied her doctor's request for an out-of-state transplant at the Pittsburgh hospital where Dalton received his transplant. Doctors said Katie was running out of time.

"The doctors were saying 'you know what? you may as well just try to go to the media," said Dalton.

If Dalton and Katie's story sounds familiar, it's because it's remarkably similar to the 2012 novel "The Fault In Our Stars" and the hit movie about two teens who fall in love after meeting at a cancer support group. The pop culture connection has caught on with media all over the world, beginning with a CNN report.

"It got out there and it just started to spread like wildfire," said Dalton, "and that's exactly what we wanted."

The story went viral, with Katie and Dalton described worldwide as the real life "Fault In Our Stars" couple. The Daily Mail in England ran the story. MTV called Dalton for a phone interview.

"If that movie had never been made, that title would have never been put on our article and it could have been that title that got people interested," said Dalton.

Media interest seemed to create momentum where there had been none. Katie is headed to Pittsburgh in a few days to be evaluated and possibly put on a donor waiting list for a double lung transplant. Dalton and Katie believe the publicity was the difference that caused Kentucky Medicaid to agree to pay the Pittsburgh hospital transplant team.

"I think that's the only thing that's making a difference," said Dalton, "because we tried and we tried and we tried, we did everything we could."

Dalton and Katie believe love conquers all, but only if Katie receives a double lung transplant.

"I'm confident she's going to get her lungs very soon," said Dalton. That's the only thing that can happen.

"It's a miracle in progress."


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