A MAN with a degenerative condition wants to marry the woman of his dreams – before it’s too late for him to stand to give his vows.
Andrew Mullen, 39, faces a race against time to say “I do” to Deborah Langley, 44, before he is permanently confined to a wheelchair.
Twelve years ago, he was a healthy 27-year-old running his own security firm.
Now he can barely stand and admitted there were times when he was in so much pain, he harboured thoughts of suicide.
But Deborah’s constant support gave him the strength to fight on.
Now, as a thank-you to his “lovely princess”, he has entered her in this year’s Bride of the Year competition –run by the Hartlepool Mail in conjunction with Robert Usher Photography.
“This lady is my rock,” said Hartlepool man Andrew as he lovingly held his fiancee at their home in Lynn Street, Hartlepool.
“I just want to try and repay her somehow.”
Stunned Deborah had no idea her partner had contacted the Mail. She said: “I am overwhelmed. To me, our relationship is already perfect. Winning this would be something special”
Their romantic story started in 2001 when they first met through a social media site.
Andrew said: “We hit it off straight away. We spent hours each and every day talking to each other.”
Hartlepool-born Andrew was then living on the Isle of Man and running his own security company, with Deborah in Bracknell in Berkshire, but he quit his home for a life with his new-found love.
They started a new window-cleaning business which was a huge success. But within two years, Andrew suffered from crippling pain in his legs.
“My whole body would shut down and I would collapse on the spot,” he said.
Test after test failed to find the cause.
Andrew admitted: “Sometimes the pain was just a dull ache but at other times, I felt like I just wanted someone to chop my legs off.
“I couldn’t live with it any more but as much as I did not want to live, I knew the reward of my family was worth it.”
The couple moved to Hartlepool in 2009 so Andrew could be nearer the support of his family. It was only then that doctors diagnosed his string of related conditions – degenerative spinal disease, facet joint arthritis, mechanical back pain and nerve damage.
His constant support has been Deborah. The couple have nine children between them with two still living at home – 13-year-old son Down’s Syndrome sufferer Shay Mullen for whom Deborah is a full-time carer for, and seven-year-old son Samuel.
“Despite the ups and downs with my health, Deb has been a rock throughout”, said Andrew.
“If I could have only one wish, it would be to win this wedding as Debs really does deserve it.”
Andrew is now on medication, can stand with the aid of a stick, and gets around using a wheelchair.
But he wants to stand up as he takes his vows.
He explained: “It is that last piece of independence.
“Marriage is very important. When you give yourself, you give yourself fully to your partner. Part of that is a man standing up and looking into his partner’s eyes to give her his vows.”