Real Life

Real life: I fell in love with my patient

I was caring for him, it was just a job, wasn't it?

By As told to Take 5

Frances Punch, 54, shares her true life story:

I walked up to the front door and took a deep breath.
What have I let myself in for?
It was my first day in my new job as a carer.
I'd worked in a pharmacy before but wanted to do something that would make a difference to people.
As a carer, I'd be doing home visits, providing personal care for patients.
David Punch, then 59, was my first client.
"He can be grumpy," a colleague had warned me. "Make sure you're not late."
Talk about being thrown in the deep end!
"Hello!" I called cheerily walking into the bedroom.
I didn't know what to expect but David greeted me with a big smile.
He was a decade older than me and complications from a back operation meant his arms were partially paralysed and he was mainly bedridden.
He needed four visits a day to help him wash, dress and to administer medication.
"Hi, I'm Frances," I smiled.
As soon as we started chatting, something clicked.
David was a retired GP and he was polite, kind and fascinating to speak to.
He wasn't grumpy with me.
In fact, he made me roar with laughter with his stories.
I used to be a pharmacist but I wanted to help people.
Over the weeks I found myself looking forward to my visits.
And if I had spare time before my next house call, I'd stay and keep David company.
I'd been divorced for a couple of years and had three wonderful children, Gavin, 23, Dave, 22 and Stephanie, 15.
I'd told myself I was done with men.
Only, I couldn't ignore the butterflies in my stomach when David made me laugh.
I tried to shove my feelings aside.
He's a client, I reminded myself.
I faced losing my job if I acted on my feelings so I remained professional.
Then, when I let David list me as his next-of-kin, my colleagues accused us of having a relationship.
"He has no-one else," I argued.
And I was telling the truth.
Nothing had happened between us.
Nine months after meeting David, he was admitted to hospital with a chest infection.
I'd visited him during the day, before heading to work.
That night, as I was heading to a house visit, the hospital called again.
"David's suffered a respiratory arrest," a nurse said.
His lungs were failing.
I suddenly realised I couldn't face life without David.
Panic rushed through me.
I can't lose him, I thought.
I suddenly realised I couldn't face life without David.
He had no idea how I felt about him.
Now it may be too late.
Another carer covered for me while I rushed to David's bedside at hospital.
My heart ached seeing him so ill.
His life was hanging in the balance.
He was unconscious, on a ventilator, but I knew I had to tell him how I felt.
So that night, after my visit, I sent him a text.
David, I love you, it read.
I visited every day, but he couldn't talk and slept most of the time.
A whole anxious week later, he was well enough to respond to my text.
I love you too, it read.
My heart soared.
It soon progressed to kissing his forehead as I said goodbye.
I was taking it slowly.
Still, I knew I had to confess to my boss.
The rumour mill was in overdrive.
"You can be David's friend," my boss said. "But you can't also be his carer."
I was assigned a different client and when David came home from hospital, I went round to see him as much as always.
At first it was awkward.
His two new carers were my colleagues. But we all got used to it.
David slowly got better and was soon making me laugh again.
Then one day, three months after I'd professed my love, I was leaning down to peck David on the lips when he held my head and kissed me properly.
It was magical.
As soon as we met, we clicked! It was special from the start.Pictures exclusive to Take 5
Despite the unusual circumstances in which we'd met, we made the perfect match.
We rarely argued and loved spending time with each other.
Then one day, I'd been lying down next to David chatting to him when he got up, came over to my side of the bed and got down on one knee.
"Will you marry me?" he asked.
"Yes!" I cried.
He'd bought me a beautiful diamond solitaire ring. I felt like I would burst with happiness.
A few months later we bought a house together.
Dave and Stephanie still lived with me so we needed somewhere big enough for us all.
They both got on well with David so it was easy.
After moving in together I became his full-time carer.
He now needed 24-hour care as he had to be fed through a peg in his stomach and wore an oxygen mask at night.
We had one carer who came 12 hours a week to give me some respite.
Caring for David was never a chore for me though.
As the date of our wedding drew nearer, only one thing was getting me down: my weight.
I was only 165cm tall, but I weighed 111kg so was clinically obese.
"I don't want to be a fat bride," I sighed to David.
He supported me as I dieted on the Cambridge Weight Plan and started exercising.
In five months I got down to 82kg.
On our beautiful wedding day - we were so happy!
Pictures exclusive to Take 5
At David's request, I wore a full, white wedding dress.
"You look beautiful," he said on our big day. And thanks to losing weight I felt it.
After our honeymoon I kept dieting and am now down to a size 12.
I'm my ideal weight with my ideal man and couldn't be happier.
We're hopelessly in love and life is bliss, even with David being so ill.
"Your love story could be a film, Mum," Stephanie said recently.
She's right.
I still can't believe I fell for a patient.
Or that my 'grumpy' first client turned out to be the man of my dreams.
When my new carer walked through the door, she was unlike any of the carers I'd had before.
I knew after a few months she was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
Now we're blissfully happy and I can't imagine life without her.

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