Mark Aulger had only days to live, and he wanted to see his child.
Diane had her labour induced and gave birth to their daughter on January 18. When tiny Savannah was placed in his arms, Mark Aulger “cried, and he just looked very sad”, Diane said.
Mark died five days later from complications related to his cancer treatment.
The 52-year-old Texan was diagnosed with colon cancer in April. He had surgery and, as a precaution, six months of chemotherapy, Diane said. With no signs of cancer showing up in follow up tests, the treatment seemed successful.
Then, in November, Mark began having trouble breathing. By Jan 3, he was sick enough to go to the emergency department. His wife said he was told the chemotherapy had caused him to develop pulmonary fibrosis, which causes scarring and thickening in the lungs.
Initially, the Aulgers were hopeful. “He thought he’d be coming home in a few days with an oxygen tank,” said Diane , who lives in The Colony, about 40km north of Dallas.
But on Jan 16, the doctor delivered more bad news: Mark’s condition was fatal. When Diane asked how long her husband had, the response was a chilling five or six days.
“Mark said ‘I’d like to see the baby’,” 31-year-old Diane said.
Their baby was due on Jan 29. The couple had planned a natural childbirth, but when the doctor suggested an induced labour, Diane immediately agreed. She was already experiencing pre-labour symptoms, and her doctor scheduled the birth for Jan 18.
Hospital staff arranged for the Aulgers to share a large labour and delivery room.
“Our beds were side by side,” Diane said.
Mark held his daughter for about 45 minutes after she was born. For the next couple of days, though, he was so tired he was only able to hold her a couple of times for a minute or so. He slipped into a coma on Jan 21 and died two days later.
“I brought her home the night before he fell into the coma,” said Diane. “It was just me and Savannah when he passed away.”
Along with Savannah, the Aulgers have two other children, Nicholas, 10, and Ava, 7. Diane also has a 15- year-old daughter, Lori, and a 13-year-old son, Trenton.
With her family’s story getting much media attention in recent days, Diane said she has been heartened by the supports she has received.
She plans to blanket her home with pictures of her husband and said her children are already doing a good job of keeping his memory alive by talking about him.
“We’re living day-to-day as if dad’s still here,” she said. “We know dad is here with us. They talk to dad. Mark was a very funny, funny dad.”