Woman delivers two weeks early so dying husband could see the newborn
In December 2011, the Aulger family had plenty to celebrate. They had just learned that Mark, 52, had overcome colon cancer after surgery and months of chemotherapy. And his wife, Diane, 31, was pregnant with their fifth child. The Texas family was looking forward to a joyous New Year with their daughter’s birth in late January. Little did Diane know that less than a month later, she would have delivered her baby girl two weeks early so her husband could meet her.
The Aulgers’ sigh of relief after Mark’s cancer-free news was short-lived. In November, Mark had started to have some trouble breathing. This issue got worse, and he was admitted to the hospital on January 3, struggling to breathe.
Mark’s doctors told Diane that the months of chemotherapy he had received had damaged his lungs. He now had pulmonary fibrosis, which happens when lung tissue gets scarred. The tissue thickens, which makes it harder for the lungs to work correctly. As the condition gets worse, it gets more difficult for people with it to breathe.
“We thought he could get on steroid treatment and oxygen and live for years,” Diane Aulger told ABC News.
But the doctors told Diane that her husband’s condition was fatal. Any available treatments would only serve to make him more comfortable. On January 16, the couple learned that Mark likely had less than a week to live.
Change of Plans
“He was awake and alert, himself. I really didn’t believe the doctor [at first],” Diane Aulger said to ABC News. “The next day his doctor came in and said: ‘When are you going to have this baby?"
Mark and Diane’s daughter was due on January 29, less than two weeks in the future. She had planned to have a natural birth.
“Mark said, `I’d like to see the baby,'” Diane told The Associated Press.
The doctor suggested inducing labor so that Mark could meet the baby, and Diane agreed. She already had some pre-labor symptoms. So they scheduled the birth for the next day, January 18.
Mother Delivered Two Weeks Early
Sensitive to their situation, the hospital staff prepared an unusually large delivery room so that Diane and Mark could have beds side-by-side. Mark was able to support Diane as she gave birth to their daughter, Savannah.
Mark felt well enough to hold Savannah for 45 minutes on the day she was born. “The day she was born his oxygen levels were really high,” Diane told ABC News. “He held her for 45 minutes. Him and I just cried that whole time.” But for the next few days, Mark became extremely tired. He was only able to hold the baby a few times, for no longer than a minute. On January 21, Mark passed into a coma. Diane said that, even while in the coma, Mark was somewhat responsive to Savannah. “If she cried, he would shake his head and moan. I put her on him when he was in the coma a few times and his hand would move toward her,” she said to ABC news.
Mark Aulger passed away on January 23 in the hospital. He was surrounded by family. Diane and Savannah had been released from the hospital a few days earlier. “I brought her home the night before he fell into the coma,” Diane told CBS News. “It was just me and Savannah when he passed away.”
The Kindness of Strangers
After Mark passed away, Diane’s focus was on honoring his memory and caring for their five children. She planned to cover their home with photos of Mark and felt grateful that their children continued to talk about him. That way, the baby girl she delivered two weeks early can learn about her father. (1, 2) “The kids go on as if dad is really still here,” Diane Aulger said to ABC News. “Mark was a very funny guy. My kids still tell jokes how they would when he was around. He would have been a wonderful daddy to Savannah.”
Diane was also heartened by the many kind comments she’d received from people who had heard her family’s story. And many people sent generous donations to the Aulgers, including baby supplies and thousands of dollars. One cash donation was even large enough for Diane to buy a new minivan to transport her five kids.
“I’ve received some other cards from perfect strangers with, you know, $100 or $200, and that was shocking enough,” Augler told the Associated Press. “But enough money to get myself a minivan was — I’m shocked still.”