Katie Prager smiled at the face of her husband on the video call, telling him how much she loved him.
She had no idea if her beloved Dalton had heard her as he lay on his deathbed – but it was the only way she had to say goodbye.
Dalton and Katie both suffered from cystic fibrosis and had been married for five years when he passed away from complications aged 25.
A day after his funeral, Katie, 26, also died, leaving her family comforted only by the thought she is back in her husband’s arms.
The tragic tale is a real-life The Fault in Our Stars relationship, similar to the hit film and book by John Green.
In a poignant interview before she passed away last Thursday Katie told how she had no regrets, as fate had brought her the man she loved.
“It gave me some of the best years of my life,” she said.
“I’d rather have had five years of being in love and just really completely happy than 20 years of not having anybody.”
The couple had planned to travel around America but, sadly, that was not to be.
Katie said: “I always wanted to go to Florida. I wish I had just gotten in my car. But that’s OK. I’ll be seeing Florida from heaven.”
Like the cancer-striken characters played by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in the 2014 film, Katie and Dalton met as teenagers.
Their love story was turned into the hit film The Fault in Our Stars
In 2009 Katie was 18 when she noticed Dalton’s mum Renee had posted a photo on Facebook of her son in hos¬¬pital.
Katie com¬¬mented: “If you ever need a friend to talk to, you can reach out to me.” He responded: “Sorry, but do I know you?”
“No, you don’t,” she replied, telling Dalton, 18, about herself.
“My breathing is pretty crappy and I see you are in the hospital. I’m sorry. I know it sucks! But you just gotta stay strong.”
Messages flew back and forth as they bonded over the physical and mental challenges of living with cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition that affects the lungs and digestive system.
They fell in love. Days later, Katie knew she would marry Dalton.
But doctors warned they should not meet each other because Dalton had a bacterial infection called Burkholderia cepacia, which is highly contagious for cystic fibrosis patients.
Katie persuaded him to visit.
She said: “I told him I’d rather be happy – like really, really happy – for five years and die sooner than be mediocre happy and live for 20 years.
“That was definitely something I had to think about but, when you have those feelings, you just know.”
On August 28 that year, Dalton and his mother drove for six hours from St Charles, Missouri, to Katie’s hometown in Flemingsburg, Kentucky, where they planned to meet at a restaurant.
At 7.10pm – both recalled the time – Katie got out of her car and saw Dalton leaning against a brick wall, looking handsome in his sunglasses.
“My heart was racing but I just went right up to him, hugged him and kissed him on the mouth without even saying hello,” she remembered.
“I’m usually not that kind of girl but it just felt so right.”
For their first date, the couple rode roller coasters and Dalton gave her a necklace for her 19th birthday, which was two days before.
Katie Prager died just five days after her husband (Photo: Katie Prager)
Two years later they married , and lived in a house they bought in Kentucky filled with wedding photos and board games.
“Those years were great,” said Katie. “The best of my life. We did stuff, we had fun. It was like out of a fairy tale.”
Sadly, Katie did contract ¬Burkholderia cepacia and ill- health forced them apart as they waited for lung transplants.
Dalton’s came first, in November 2014, and was a success. But Katie’s health insurers said she was not entitled to the treatment because she had used up a lifetime’s worth of care and they refused to perform out-of-state procedures.
Doctors warned she would not live more than a year. Her devoted husband made a public appeal.