DALLAS - It's a story about life, loss, and the courage to go on.
A north Texas mother gave birth to her baby weeks early just so her terminally-ill husband could hold his daughter before he died.
Still less than a month old, Savanah Aulger is resting peacefully at home, too young to understand all the pain around her.
Months ago, her father Mark learned that he won his battle with cancer. What he didn't know at the time, however, was the eight months of chemotherapy had destroyed his lungs.
"It was basically like his lungs were soaked in concrete,” said Mark’s wife, Diane. “They couldn't inhale. They couldn't pass oxygen through the body. He was, in essence, suffocating to death."
In January, Mark was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. He was given just days to live.
Diane, pregnant with the couple’s fifth child at the time, was induced two weeks early so Mark could have a chance to meet their baby girl.
"He got to be the first one to hold her. He held her for 45 minutes after she was born."
Those few moments together are all Mark got, unfortunately. Over the next few days, he fell into a coma.
As Diane laid in a hospital bed, still recovering from the delivery, she had to break the news to her four other children that their father was dying.
"My 10-year-old said, ‘Is dad asleep?’ and I said ‘No, he's in a coma,’” she remembered through tears. “And he said ‘Is he going to make it?’ and I said, ‘No,’ and he screamed. And my 8-year-old screamed and cried, ‘I'm not going to have a daddy.’"
By his bedside, the family cried and prayed for Mark, who died holding little Savanah.
"His heart rate started to drop, his breathing started to drop. I put her in his arms and I held his hand until he died."
Diane is grateful for those moments, and the memories she carries of her husband holding his daughter.
"She is the ray of sunshine in our sorrow."
The couple's story has touched many other lives: friends, neighbors, even a company who the family was working with before mark got sick.
Workers volunteered their time to replace the couple's roof, a job Mark had planned to do before dying.
"He had dreams and aspirations to get his home in that condition, and we wanted to help bring that through even though he's not here,” said Jay Coleman, one of the roofers.
And while they protect his home, Diane is protecting Mark’s family without him.
"My children keep me going,” she said “I have no choice."
How to help
In this difficult time for the families of the fallen TPD Officers, Jeffrey Kocab and Dave Curtis, Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union has a way for you to show your support.
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