Lung transplant recipient who battled bureaucracy to get coverage, dies five days after being widowed; funeral Sunday

“Katie Prager, the Kentucky lung transplant recipient whose story with her late husband, Dalton, touched millions, has died,” reports Cheryl Truman of The Lexington Herald-Leader. Katie and Dalton met online and married in 2011. “Both had cystic fibrosis, and both had lung transplants that failed.”

(Lexington Herald-Leader photo.)

Katie, 26, died in her Flemingsburg home early Thursday, a family member said.

Debra Donovan, Katie’s mother, said it was Katie’s wish to be surrounded by loved ones in her final moments. “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,” Donovan, wrote Thursday morning on Facebook.

“By the time Katie’s close-knit Fleming County family gave her a Christmas-in-September party on Saturday, she was underweight, her once-abundant blonde hair sparse, her color waxen.” Truman writes. “She had made a decision to discontinue all life-extending measures except for dialysis and had entered hospice care. She was sleeping a great deal, using an oxygen tank and getting weaker by the day.”

Hours before the start of the family gathering, Dalton died in his hometown of St. Louis. “He had been trying to get to Kentucky to see his wife, who was in Hospice care after her own failed lung transplant, one last time,” Truman writes.

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Katie and Dalton received national attention because they both had “the Burkholderia cepacia infection, which limited the number of surgery centers specializing in their conditions,” Truman writes. “Dalton received his lung transplant in November 2014. Katie, after a lengthy bureaucratic snafu over insurance coverage, received her new lungs at the University of Pittsburgh medical center in July 2015.” Both transplants were unsuccessful.

“During the Saturday Christmas party, Katie said that she believed in an afterlife and would see her husband again,” Truman writes. “At the family gathering in Ewing after Dalton’s death, Katie said, ‘I’ll see him soon.’”

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Visitation for Katie will be 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday at Elizaville Christian Church in Flemingsburg. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Monday at the church.

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