Fight­ing hard for their day in the sun

Central Leader - - NEWS - By SARAH ROBERTS

A 39-year-old dy­ing man’s last wish is to give his long­time part­ner the wed­ding she de­serves.

Ray Puni de­vel­oped the lung dis­ease bronchiec­ta­sis when he was a teenager.

He had a dou­ble lung trans­plant at the age of 34, but now it has failed.

Veron­ica Mame has been Puni’s best friend, lover, nurse and carer for the last seven years.

Puni now has just a few months to live but plans to wed at Kumeu Val­ley Es­tate on Au­gust 22.

The Glen­dene res­i­dent will be laid to rest in the same suit he plans to wear on his wed­ding day.

‘‘All I know is I have a very nice suit. I make small goals,’’ Puni says.

‘‘I want to make it to my 40th birth­day – but we just don’t know.’’

His lung func­tion has al­ready dropped to 10 per cent and ev­ery­day tasks like show­er­ing have be­come a strug­gle.

Puni pro­posed to Mame on the four-year an­niver­sary of his lung trans­plant over a res­tau­rant meal on Mother’s Day.

‘‘I got down on one knee huff­ing and puff­ing and popped the ques­tion,’’ Puni says.

‘‘She looked at me and said ‘ are you kid­ding?’ and I’m kneel­ing down there run­ning out of breath. ‘‘I’m like ‘I’m se­ri­ous’.’’ The stunned bride-to-be said yes. ‘‘She means a lot to me. She’s been my nurse and carer,’’ Puni says. ‘‘She’s been there from the very be­gin­ning and I love her very much. I’m so grate­ful.’’

A num­ber of busi­nesses have come for­ward to help cover wed­ding costs.

Puni will use a wheel­chair and take breaks dur­ing the wed­ding, to which about 70 guests have been in­vited.

A fundrais­ing web­page has raised more than $9000 to help with the costs. If Puni doesn’t make it to the wed­ding then the funds will go to­wards his fu­neral.

The cou­ple didn’t want to have the date any ear­lier be­cause of the risk of ill­ness dur­ing the early win­ter months.

Mame is mak­ing sure the finer de­tails are per­fect for the big day.

‘‘I want it to be a day to re­mem­ber and to make mem­o­ries for Ray,’’ she says.

‘‘We are try­ing to cre­ate qual­ity time to­gether.

‘‘It’s go­ing to be a strug­gle when the time comes, but you don’t mourn the liv­ing.’’

Puni wants oth­ers to know the im­por­tance of go­ing to the doc­tor.

He grew up with Samoan her­itage and was given al­ter­na­tive treat­ment when he was sick.

‘‘He’s liv­ing like a 90-year-old and in your 30s and 40s you’re meant to be out en­joy­ing life,’’ Mame says.

Ray Puni, left, is hop­ing he lives long enough to see his bride-to-be Veron­ica Mame walk down the aisle.

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