It should have been one of the happiest days of their lives. (Daily Mail)
But for the Aulger family from The Colony, Texas, the birth of their fifth child was racked with sadness – as they knew the baby’s father had less than a week to live.
On discovering her husband was suffering from a fatal lung disease, Diane Aulger, 31, had her labour induced two weeks early so he could meet his newborn daughter.
Mark Aulger, 52, had been told just before Christmas that he had beaten cancer. But on January 3, he was admitted to hospital, unable to breathe.
Doctors discovered that the eight months of chemotherapy had destroyed his lungs. He was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a scarring of the lungs that makes it difficult to breathe.
The family thought he could start taking steroids and would live for years – but on January 16 he was told he had just one week left, ABC News reported.
‘He was awake and alert,’ Mrs Aulger told the news channel. ‘I really didn’t believe the doctor. The next day his doctor came in and said:” When are you going to have this baby?”‘
They decided to induce the pregnant mother, and baby Savannah was born on January 18. But it was a day laced with sadness.
‘He held her for 45 minutes,’ Mrs Aulger said, recounting that he had been the first to hold her. ‘Him and I just cried that whole time.’
The next day, her husband was only able to hold Savannah for a minute before he slipped into a coma.
Sobbing as she held her newborn daughter and speaking to ABC News, Mrs Aulger remembered the pain of telling her four other children about their father’s battle.
‘My 10-year-old says, “Is dad asleep?” and I said, “No, he’s in a coma”.
‘He said, “Is he going to make it?” and I said, “No” and he screamed. And my eight-year-old screamed and cried, “I’m not going to have a daddy”.’
She added that despite his being in a coma, her husband was aware of the new baby.
‘If she cried, he would shake his head and moan,’ Mrs Aulger said. ‘I put her on him when he was in the coma a few times and his hand would move toward her.’
On January 23, Mr Aulger died in his hospital bed – with his wife and four children at his side and newborn daughter in his arms.
‘His heart rate started to drop and his breathing started to drop, so I put her in his arms and held his hand until he died,’ his wife said.
‘It was like his lungs were soaked in concrete. They couldn’t inhale, they couldn’t pass oxygen to the rest of his body. So he in essence suffocated to death.’
The only picture of the family shows Mark hooked up to an oxygen mask on the day of the birth, surrounded by his children and hospital equipment.
Mrs Aulger told ABC News how excited her husband had been for the impending birth of their daughter, who she called ‘the ray of sunshine in our sorrow’.
‘He would talk to my stomach when I was pregnant,’ Mrs Aulger said.’He was so excited for her… He would have been a wonderful daddy to Savannah.’