Swathed in bandages and filled with painkillers, the last thing cricket commentator Simon Doull expected as he was wheeled out of the operating theatre was to meet the love of his life.
But a chance encounter in a hospital corridor with gorgeous mum-of-four Liana Herbert has led to a whirlwind romance and marriage just a year after they first met.
It's been an exciting 12 months for the new Mr and Mrs Doull, who sealed their devotion with an intimate ceremony at their Waikato home just before Labour Weekend.
The pair – each declaring they've found "the one" – confess they're an unlikely match, but say the love they share has been healing and they couldn't imagine life without each other.
Oozing vintage Hollywood glam in a satin champagne-hued gown, Liana, 42, wows fiancé Simon, 50, when she makes her entrance on a blustery spring evening.
The simple yet stylish garden setting sees the couple wed under a pergola, with Liana's mum, celebrant Denise Herbert, uniting the pair in wedded bliss.
Around 65 friends and family have gathered to celebrate the special day, with the former Black Caps bowling star pledging to love and cherish his sweetheart for the rest of his days.
"Liana loves like no one," gushes the smitten groom, who is dad to Adam Carter, 31, and Hunter Doull, 15. "She showed me that you can be loved and in love and be vulnerable, and it's OK."
Liana, who has four children from two previous marriages, glows with happiness, saying since the broadcaster came into her life, she has rediscovered joy.
She tells, "Simon is the most incredibly kind, loving man. His kindness has healed a multitude of things in my life. He has taught me so much about myself."
With six kids between them, the newlyweds say they are passionate about family and uniting the blended whanau has been important from the start of the relationship.
"As hard as it would have been, if none of our children were OK with this situation, then we would've had to look at us," shares Liana.
"But they get on great," smiles Simon.
So much so that on the special day, their children play key roles in the ceremony. Liana's eldest sons Baden, 24, and Corban Reihana, 17, proudly walking their radiant mum down the aisle, while little Maisie, 10, youngest son Luka Devcich, eight, and Hunter are in charge of handing over the golden wedding bands and signing the register.
Tears fall from the couple's eyes as Liana's mum Denise reads aloud letters written for the ceremony, telling how much they adore each other, the excitement of future adventures and the prospect of sharing afternoons watching their favourite pastime of horse racing.
The ceremony ends with cheers and clapping, and the pair passionately locking lips as they are pronounced husband and wife.
"It's incredibly special," confides Denise. "It's probably the most special ceremony I have ever done."
Amazingly, a little over a year ago the loved-up couple were strangers, following each other on Instagram but never having spoken in person.
Liana even admits she once hid with daughter Maisie in the spaghetti aisle at the local supermarket to avoid Simon, concerned she wasn't looking her best.
It wasn't until the solo mum and the cricketing ace were undergoing surgeries at Braemar Hospital in Hamilton that their paths crossed unexpectedly last September.
Recalls a smiling Liana, "He was being wheeled back to his room when I was coming down the corridor and we sat and chatted. That was the very first time we'd met."
Simon, who part-owns racehorses with his new bride and was in for a shoulder reconstruction, continues, "And then she came back to the hospital and visited me while I was there."
The friendship blossomed in the following weeks as the invalid pair kept each other company during their recovery at home.
"I couldn't afford to bump or move my arm and she was hunched over," says Simon.
Laughs Liana, "We both had to have a couch each because neither of us could move or sit near each other. I was in a full-on garment. It was a real unattractive situation for us both to be in."
Simon adds, "We just sat at my place and had a chair outside looking over the countryside. We'd drink wine, watch races and DIY TV, and talk and talk and talk. That was probably the best thing that could have happened."
Nodding in agreement, the businesswoman says, "It was the worst that we were both at, but probably the happiest we both felt."
The stunning bride says selecting John Legend's beautiful ballad All of Me to walk down the aisle is "very much us".
"I'm crazy. He's out of his mind. And he loves all my perfect imperfections. I've had bowel cancer and lots of surgeries, so I'm pretty brutally scarred and he loves who I am. That wasn't something I was always OK with, but he's taught me massively about being happy with who I am."
She says her potentially deadly cancer diagnosis came out of the blue five years ago when she went to the doctor for an unrelated issue.
"I didn't know I was sick," says Liana. "Six months longer and I would have been dead."
She says the extent of the disease was only discovered after tests indicated she needed a colonoscopy.
"The day the doctor found it, he said, 'That's not good.' I remember thinking the only thing that matters to me is living for my kids. I had just under half of my bowel removed."
She says being a cancer survivor and the fact that Simon's parents had both died from cancer helped the pair come to terms with love and loss.
"Simon lost his mum quite tragically and he always felt from that point if he ever truly loved somebody, they would be taken away, so he made a decision he wasn't going to let that feeling ever happen again. I guess we've kind of healed each other."
After a Queenstown proposal in May, with an exquisitely crafted bespoke diamond ring tucked uncomfortably against his ankle to hide it from his bride-to-be, the couple made plans to wed in the place they treasured most – their home.
Tells Simon, "For me, home is somewhere I don't spend enough time, so I wanted people to celebrate our future life together at our house."
Liana is sure there was an element of fate the day they crossed paths in the hospital ward.
"We were both not looking," Liana confesses.
"And that's when it's at its best as well, when you're not looking," enthuses Simon. "It surprises you. I mean, she surprised the hell out of me. It's great!"
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