For any new father the company of a doting baby daughter doesn't get much better - especially when you've had to wait six months to hold her in your arms.
It's one of life's pleasures Barrie Gardner will never take for granted again after nearly losing his life in an explosion in 2007. The blast  left him with burns to 80 per cent of his body.
At the time, daughter Tahlia was eight weeks old and, because Mr Gardner was so badly injured, it was more than six months before he could hold his daughter unaided.
His injuries were  among the worst doctors who treated him had seen in 10 years.
Amazingly today, 21 months on, the 30-year-old looks more like the man he once was and getting on with life albeit "one day at a time".
"It's been a long road," Mr Gardner says reflectively.
"The first six months there were a lot more downs than ups. It's never black and white, always grey.
"We're just going to see what the future holds. I'm never going to be my former self."
His skin is a lot more fragile and he has to watch the sun.
He has endured 49 operations - 45 in a row and then two elbow reconstructions, the last of which was five weeks ago.
Life changed in an instant for him on October 13, 2007.
Mr Gardner, of Mount Maunganui, was removing linoleum from the floor of a house he owns in Katikati when fumes from paint thinner he was using ignited and engulfed him  in a fireball.
He escaped the blaze by smashing through a window but suffered severe burns. 
He tried to cool himself with a tap, and neighbours assisted until emergency services arrived.
The only body parts of Mr Gardner's body to escape injury were his groin, thighs, buttocks, the top of his head and feet.
He remembers all of that fateful event but chooses not to discuss it.
After spending the first night in Tauranga Hospital's intensive care unit because the weather was too bad  for him to be airlifted to Middlemore Hospital, he says he owes his life to a Bay doctor who did something - he doesn't know what - to stabilise him.
"I was dying," he says matter-of-factly.
The next day he was flown to Auckland and spent three weeks in an induced coma.
By his side was devoted partner Serina Golder, who moved up to Auckland with Tahlia for the eight months Mr Gardner spent in Middlemore Hospital's burns unit.
She recalls vividly the first leg of her partner's fight for survival.

"It was pretty gruesome and scary. We didn't get told until just before Christmas that he was going to live. It was a pretty good moment for us," she says a smile spreading across her face.

 In the  days after the accident, surgeons worked on him 14 hours a day in theatres heated at a gruelling 35C to retain Mr Gardner's body temperature.

 After he came out his coma, Mr Gardner admits he was perhaps  "naive" about his recovery. "I didn't realise what a hard road I had ahead of me ..." 
 Countless operations followed, physio and gym work.

"It takes its toll eventually.  I might have one day where I was feeling better and the next day feeling ****, and there's some other complication you've got to fight through."
Mr Gardner was heartened by support from family, friends and the community though, and staff at Middlemore Hospital who allowed a cot to be set up in his room for Tahlia's visits.
She became the nursing staff's "little pet," Ms Golder says.
Now that Mr Gardner has endured his last operation, she says it feels like life is "starting over" again for them.
"We're moving on to the next part of life and there's more emphasis on every day, rather than what's going to happen in the future."
 And part of that  is appreciating what you've got. When you come so close to death it's the little things that make you smile.
Mr Gardner has had to learn to walk again and for 18 months he was unable to touch his nose, clean his teeth, or feed himself.

 
 Recently he went fishing again and is looking forward to eventually being able to return to work - and the thing he wants to do most - go for a surf.
While he credits doctors with the bulk of his recovery,  his own  fighting spirit clearly played a part.
 "There's nothing that can't be dealt with. Be tough ... There is life after serious trauma," Mr Gardner says.