Bridegroom with 'six months to live' marks sixty years

FOR Terry and Pat Capes, it was the chance to show their enduring love –despite grave fears that the bridegroom had only six months to live.

But 60 years after the couple tied the knot in a seemingly bitter-sweet marriage ceremony, they are celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary after Mr Capes defied his doctors' predictions and battled back from the brink.

Mr Capes even had to be carried up the aisle of the church on a stretcher after he was driven to his wedding by ambulance as he was so ill from the killer disease, tuberculosis.

The great-grandfather, who is now 82, was wearing the top half of a dinner suit and pyjama bottoms during the ceremony and a hot water bottle was under a bed sheet while his stretcher was placed on a trestle as he said his vows before being carried back out of the church.

The couple held a brief reception at home before both returning to hospital – Mrs Capes was also suffering from a slightly less serious strain of the disease, which kills as many as two million people each year.

Their relatives did not tell Mr Capes, a young trainee teacher, how close he was to death until years later when he had recovered.

Mr Capes, who lives in York, said: "I contracted TB in January 1949. I just thought I had a dose of the flu as I was coughing all the time, but I went to the GP who told me the bad news. I couldn't believe it, it was the biggest shock of my life.

"It took me three-and-a-half years to get out of bed. I just felt rotten. My legs turned to jelly and I couldn't stand, but I still didn't know how ill I was. I was even sent home at one point. I was told it was to prepare for an operation, but in reality I was being sent home because they didn't think I was going to make it.

"Pat and I had met a couple of years before and were determined to get married. Everything had been out of our control. Pat contracted it a year after I did and we were being pushed about by doctors and nurses, so we decided to take control for once and get married regardless.

"On the day itself I had a jacket, shirt, tie and carnation on my top half, but pyjama bottoms on my bottom half and a hot water bottle with me hidden by a bed sheet."

Mr Capes's brother-in-law, who worked as an ambulance driver, borrowed a vehicle to transport the desperately ill 22-year-old to the church in Wadebridge, Cornwall, in January 1951.

Mr Capes said: "We had a quick reception at home but it didn't last for long because I had to be taken back to the hospital, and so did Pat. Some wedding night that was."

His wife, a former shop worker who is now 83, added: "It was a very, very unusual wedding, but we wanted to do it. It was a lovely occasion considering. We didn't want Terry to know how ill he was and that the doctor had said he only had six months to live. We didn't want the prediction to come true. He was young and healthy and we wanted to believe he could beat it, and he did."

Mr Capes has been hit with more recent misfortune when he slipped on ice while walking his dog last month and broke his hip. But the couple, who have three children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, are still holding a party at home for family and friends.

They met by chance in 1948 when Mr Capes was driving a neighbour to pick her son up from hospital, and he immediately fell for her daughter.

Mr Capes said: "I can still remember the first moment I saw her, I was smitten immediately. I even angled the car mirror so I could take a look at her. She was a smasher.

"I do all the talking in the relationship. She's the quiet one, but she is marvellous, I couldn't have done anything without her.

"We have had a card from the Queen congratulating us, which was so wonderful and unexpected."

The couple moved to York in 1970 after Mr Capes became a teacher at one of the city's schools.

Bacterium still a major killer

EVERY year, more than nine million people worldwide develop tuberculosis and as many as two million are killed by the disease.

It is is a serious, slowly developing, infection caused by the bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and while it is most commonly linked to the lungs, the condition can affect almost any part of the body.

It can be spread when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes or talks and another person breathes in the bacteria.

However, prolonged contact is usually needed to become infected.

The latest figures from the Health Protection Agency for 2007 have revealed that there were a total of 8,417 cases in the United Kingdom.

Anyone can get TB, although those most at risk include children, the elderly and smokers.