Katie Prager, 24, met her husband Dalton, 23, after doing some admitted "Facebook stalking." They were 18 at the time. She reached out after seeing him in the hospital; she wanted him to know that he wasn't alone.
They both have cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic, inherited and life-threatening disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs and digestive system. There is no cure, and they currently can't be in the same room until Katie receives a lung transplant. But they both explained by phone that they are a normal couple who just so happen to be dealing with extraordinary circumstances.
Here's what they want people to know about their situation, about people in similar ones, and about relationships in general.
Chronic illness doesn't define who they are, as individuals or as a couple.
"CF is a part of our life -- it’s not all of our life," Katie says.
Dalton adds, "You choose what defines you. Katie and I chose to not let it control us."
In other ways, though, it gives them a deeper bond.
"It’s like being in a foreign country and finally someone speaks your language," Dalton explains. "There’s such a huge difference between you and people who just don’t get it, and when you find somebody who does--"
"It is surreal," Katie says. "Sorry we’re both talking over each other."
"When I start going," he laughs, "she knows where I’m headed."
What they've learned about relationships is good advice for any couple.
"Just stick together, love each other and communicate," Katie says. "That’s something Dalton and I have always done. It’s so simple, but take time away from your cell phones, cook dinner together -- it’s that stuff that makes your love stronger."
Dalton advises that partners treat every conversation as an important and cherished one, because "any time you talk to your spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend ... it could be your last time."
Katie adds, "We do that while staying positive!"
They also have advice specific to dating someone with a chronic illness.
It requires "patience," Dalton says, "because there are some really bad days ... even if your partner is lashing out, remember they don’t mean it."
Katie says, "We both do it because you just get sick and tired of being sick and tired. ... Just because we have CF doesn’t mean we’re immune to the dumb stuff either."
(As an example of "the dumb stuff," Dalton explains they sometimes argue in a situation "like, if she points out a parking spot to me and I park somewhere else -- she’ll roll her eyes at me.")
What they most want people to know is the importance of signing up as an organ donor.
"I have one specific person I need to thank for my life and that’s my donor," Dalton says. "The biggest issue, and one that almost cost me my life, is that there aren’t enough."
The myth that signing up as an organ donor could impact your own medical care in an emergency is just that: a myth.
"I’ve heard some people think that if you’re a donor that doctors won’t take as good care of you, which is just not true," Katie says.
"Some people don’t [donate for] specific reasons, but a lot just don’t think to check that on the back of their license," Dalton says. "You can’t take them with you, you don’t need them when you go -- it’s such a waste."
No, they haven't seen "The Fault In Our Stars," but they're glad it exists.
"We almost did [see it] once and I was just like, 'Katie, that’s our life -- just not as interesting,'" Dalton says with a laugh. "But seriously, if that movie was never made, then that wouldn’t have been the headline CNN used, and that is what got our story a lot more attention ... we’re really grateful for that."
For more information on becoming an organ donor visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.