It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood tear-jerker, but the story is all too true for a Dallas-area family. Mark Aulger, 52, was hospitalized with complications from colon cancer. His wife, Diane, 31, was two weeks away from delivering their fifth child. When the doctors told the Aulgers that Mark had only five or six days to live, "Mark said, 'I'd like to see the baby,'" Diane told the Associated Press. So the doctors induced pregnancy. Here's their story:
Was the baby born in time?
Yes. The hospital modified a large labor and delivery room so that Mark could be there for the birth, with the couple in side-by-side hospital beds. Savannah Aulger was born Jan. 18, and Mark was the first one to hold her. He was having a relatively good day, health-wise, and he cradled his baby daughter for 45 minutes. He "cried, and he just looked very sad," says Diane. Mark slipped into a coma Jan. 21. He died two days later.
What did Mark die from?
Pulmonary fibrosis, a condition in which the lungs are so scarred and thickened that you can't breathe. In this case, it was apparently a side effect of the chemotherapy Mark received to treat his colon cancer, diagnosed just last April. If this story "hasn't gotten you sufficiently teary already," says Cassie Murdoch at Jezebel, "as of this Christmas, Mark thought he'd beaten the cancer." Home movies show the happy family — Mark, Diane, and their four kids (the two oldest are Diane's from an earlier relationship) — unwrapping presents to the Christmas soundtrack of Mark's guitar-playing.
When did things take a turn for the worse?
On Jan. 3, Mark couldn't breathe on his own and was rushed to the hospital. When the pulmonary fibrosis was diagnosed, "We thought he could get on steroid treatment and oxygen and live for years," Diane told ABC News. Then, on Jan. 16, the doctors delivered the bad news. After he slipped into a coma, Mark would still "shake his head and moan" when Savannah cried, his wife said. "I put her on him when he was in the coma a few times and his hand would move toward her."
How is the family pulling through?
Diane says she's received a lot of positive support. And she plans to keep Mark's memory alive by talking about him and plastering his photo around the house. "We're living day-to-day as if dad's still here," she told the AP. "We know dad is here with us. They talk to dad. Mark was a very funny, funny dad."