A newlywed Auckland couple's first year of marriage has been marred by two serious health issues, with the wife having a heart attack weeks after her husband was diagnosed with kidney failure.
Last April, about two years after they met online, Sue Hamilton and Simon Walker married in a nautical-themed wedding.
It had been a dream come true for the pair, said close friend Dee Williams. Mum-of-two Hamilton, 49, had never been married before so "this is just the completion of her life," Williams said.
The couple decided to put off their honeymoon and instead focus on moving into a new rental property to create a proper family home together for Hamilton's 14-year-old daughter Kiara. Hamilton's adult daughter Shannen lives with her partner and young children.
"It was like 'I've finally got married, I've got my kids, I've got a nice home, I'm happy'," Williams told the Herald on Sunday.
"I think she finally felt maybe she's found the love and support she's always craved. I think she's always felt like she's missed out on something. But now she'd sort of completed that puzzle. He's absolutely wonderful to her."
But during a routine appointment about six weeks ago, Walker's doctor told him his kidneys were failing and he would need to start dialysis. Eventually he would likely need a transplant.
He had had kidney trouble before, but seemed to be recovering well before the check-up.
The family started to prepare for Walker's treatment and decided to go to Whitianga for Auckland Anniversary Weekend for a holiday.
Then on January 27, as she was packing the car for their trip, Hamilton started feeling unwell.
She went inside to lie down, but still didn't feel right and eventually told Walker "I think I'm having a heart attack", Williams told the Herald on Sunday.
"He goes 'oh that's not even funny, you don't joke about s*** like that'. She said 'no I actually think I'm having a heart attack'."
Hamilton was taken to Middlemore Hospital where she underwent an angioplasty to widen her coronary artery and improve blood flow to her heart.
"That's when they saw she had a mass of fluid around her heart so they rushed her to Auckland [City Hospital]. She had to go into surgery and have that all drained out," Williams said.
Hamilton is still recovering in hospital and is expected to have another angioplasty next week.
She and Walker, 52, were both too ill to be interviewed this week, but gave permission for Williams to speak to the Herald on Sunday on their behalf.
Williams said Hamilton's heart attack came as a "terrible shock" to her and their friends.
"I was just devastated. It's been hard because Sue's always been a strong person and to see her struggling like that has just been heartbreaking.
"Sue is a very outgoing, vibrant person. She's fun-loving and an easygoing, cruisy person, so to see her going down like this is a real shock, you know."
It was unclear how long it would take Hamilton to recover.
"One of the things I noticed with her when I went to see her in the hospital was that she was breathless, which she's never been before."
Worrying about his wife was also affecting Walker's health, Williams said.
He had been suffering from edema, a side effect of kidney disease where excess fluid trapped in bodily tissues causes swelling in parts of the body- most commonly limbs.
"You can tell his health is impacted badly because you'll go there and he'll nod off to sleep. He's just exhausted. It's his body shutting down, I suppose."
Neither partner could work at the moment and it was uncertain when Hamilton would be able to return to her job looking after accounts and ordering at a plastics plant.
Walker is a retired merchant seaman who had been working as a labourer. His kidney disease means he is unable to drive so he and Kiara had been catching public transport to visit Hamilton in hospital.
Williams described Walker as a quiet, genuine person who cared deeply for his family.
"He's absolutely besotted with Sue and Kiara. There's nothing he wouldn't do for either of them. He's there 100 per cent."
Friends and relatives had rallied around the Walker-Hamilton family, Williams said, offering help wherever they could - whether that was bringing meals over or driving them places.
"If I can take less strain off her for her to recover then I'm happy to chip and do what I can. I'm sure a lot of other people will too.
"We just want the best for Sue and Simon. We need to make her strong enough, if this makes sense, to be able to cope with what Simon's going to be going through [with dialysis]."
Williams had set up a Givealittle page to ease some of the family's financial stress. To donate click here.