27-year-old’s final wish fulfilled as he marries the love of his life after being given just weeks to live

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When 27-year-old Hunter Knisley learned that he only had weeks to live, he only wished for one thing: Marry his fiancée Emily Draper Knisley. “She’s the love of my life,” Hunter told PEOPLE​. The pair have shared a long bond since the very beginning of their existence. Both Hunter and Emily were born just four hours apart at Fairfield Medical Center in Lancaster, Ohio. Their birth was so close that even their Social Security numbers are one digit apart.

The two attended the same school, Sheridan High School in Thornville, Ohio, but Emily was a year behind him. Unfortunately, at the age of 8, Hunter was diagnosed with Becker Muscular Dystrophy, a condition similar to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy though rare and slower to progress. Due to this, he faced difficulties while performing physical activities.

“When I started playing T-ball, I ran different than the other kids and I was a lot slower,” recalled Hunter. However, this did not faze Emily one bit as she still found him “adorable.” Although the two had mutual feelings, Hunter never managed to respond to her whenever she approached him. “She was so pretty that I was so shy and I didn’t say anything to her,” he shared.

A decade went by with the two having no contact with each other but then in January 2019 Hunter stumbled upon Emily’s picture on his Facebook feed. “I was like, ‘Hey, might as well check in,'” he said. In no time, the two were bonding over their shared interests in the Backstreet Boys, Destiny’s Child, horror movies, Johnny Depp films, and Harry Potter.

“Right off the bat, we felt like we were best friends,” shared Emily of their meaningful exchanges. In just a few months’ time, Hunter won her over with his sense of humor and by late March 2013, they were on their first date. “He’s quirky and he’s a really good guy,” she said.

Meanwhile, Hunter added, “We click. And she’s gorgeous. I can’t stress that enough. She’s just a really good person and just wonderful to be around.” It was on their third date that the 27-year-old opened up about the high chances of him suffering heart failure. “I told her there are a lot of uncertainties about where my health can go, and how soon that can happen, when that can happen. I was very up front with her about it,” he said.

That day, Emily thought deeply about their situation as she didn’t want her daughters from a previous relationship to be hurt. But ultimately, she realized that there was no certainty in life. “If I was going to have someone break my heart. I wanted it to be him,” she said. In November 2019, the pair moved in together along with Emily’s daughters Delanie, 6, and Delilah, 4. The following year in December, Hunter popped the question but as Emily’s divorce wasn’t finalized she wasn’t able to marry him officially.

Instead, the two got wedding bands tattooed on their ring fingers. On March 22, 2021, they welcomed their son, Maverick. But their happiness didn’t last long as doctors diagnosed him with end-stage heart failure. “It was like a stab in the heart. I couldn’t breathe, it was awful — not what we were expecting at all,” said Emily of the moment she received the devastating news.

Hunter’s final wish was to marry the love of his life in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and take his kids to see the ocean. On April 14, he legally married Emily in a dreamy beachside wedding arranged by the hospital staff. Myrtle Beach wedding planner Amanda McDowell quickly made the arrangements at no cost, thanks to donations from local businesses. “People that we’ve never met, that didn’t owe us anything, did so much for us, and it was perfect,” recalled Emily of her wedding. For Hunter, their first dance was “the happiest I’ve ever been.”

Representative cover image source: Getty | Photo by Akop Chodzajan / EyeEm