In case you missed it: This was one of Lifestyle's most popular stories of 2016. It was originally published in September

A dying woman said goodbye to her husband over FaceTime, after attempts to reunite them one final time failed.

Katie and Dalton Prager have been likened to the fictional couple battling cancer in The Fault in Our Stars. Instead of cancer, each had cystic fibrosis, and after striking up an online relationship seven years ago, they met in person against the advice of doctors - CF patients can easily pass bacteria to each other - and fell in love.

Katie, 26, is currently in a hospice in Kentucky, where her family threw her an early Christmas on Saturday, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader. She became a widow a few hours before the party started.

The couple FaceTimed as Dalton, 25 was dying.


"She told him that she loved him," said Debra Donovan, Katie's mother. "We don't know if he heard her."

"Dalton fought a long hard battle with cystic fibrosis," Katie posted on Facebook. "He was a courageous fighter and 'give up' wasn't in his vocabulary."

Dalton had been in the intensive care unit on a ventilator for about two weeks before he died.

Dalton and Katie both battled complications from Cystic Fibrosis throughout their relationship. Photo / Facebook
Dalton and Katie both battled complications from Cystic Fibrosis throughout their relationship. Photo / Facebook

Just last week, the family had hoped to have a medical transport company fly Dalton from Missouri to a hospital in Kentucky. They wanted him to recover there, and then drive to their home, where Katie is receiving hospice care.

But in the end, Dalton was never healthy enough to fly to Kentucky. They were never able to reunite for a final goodbye in person.

The last time Katie and Dalton saw each other was July 16, their fifth wedding anniversary.

A risky meeting

Katie and Dalton's romance began online when they were both 18.

The started to fall in love as they communicated on Facebook, but they knew meeting in person would be dangerous for Katie.

Dalton had Burkholderia cepacia, a highly contagious infection for people with cystic fibrosis. Katie didn't.

Her doctors warned her not to meet with other CF patients, for fear of contracting the bacteria. Still, Katie asked Dalton to visit her in Kentucky.

Dalton and Katie met, despite doctors warning it could impact Katie's health. Photo / Facebook
Dalton and Katie met, despite doctors warning it could impact Katie's health. Photo / Facebook

"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," Katie said earlier. "That was definitely something I had to think about, but when you have those feelings, you just know."

Two years later, in 2011, Dalton and Katie married. Both were 20 years old.

Katie did contract Burkholderia cepacia, and the husband and wife waited for transplants at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre. Dalton's came first, on November 17, 2014, and it was a success. In July 2015, after a long fight with Medicare, Medicaid and her hospital, Katie got her transplant, too.

But their medical struggles continued. Dalton seemed to do well at first after his transplant, but then developed lymphoma. He overcame the cancer, but then was recently hospitalised with pneumonia and a viral infection.

Katie's transplant never worked well. She was in and out of the hospital, and earlier this month doctors told her there was nothing more they could do.

Five years together

Days after they started talking online, Katie says she knew she would marry him.

"He was one of the greatest people I'd ever met and not many people like Dalton come around so you got to get him while you can," said Katie.

Dalton's funeral will be on Wednesday in Missouri, where his family lives. A GoFundMe page was set up to cover Dalton's remaining medical bills and funeral expenses.

The day before Dalton died, Katie told CNN she had no regrets about their decision to meet in person. For all the time spent sick or in the hospital, it's the time they spent together that stands out to her.

"It gave me some of the best years of my life," she said. "I'd rather have five years of being in love and just really completely happy than 20 years of not having anybody."