David Paine has won a VIP meal for his family at the pub after being nominated by his wife Katie, who described him as her ‘Superman.’
Five years ago David took the decision to move to working night shifts so he could help care for his family, many of whom have chronic health conditions and special needs.
Due to Katie’s agoraphobia, within an hour of arriving home from his eight-hour shift at 7am, he embarks on a daily 100-mile round trip to drop his children – aged between 10 and 16 – at schools across the county. It includes an hour-long journey to Potterspury Lodge School which provides specialised care for his 14-year-old daughter Jennifer.
As well as autism and sensory processing disorder, the teenager suffers from a string of health disorders including a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome hypermobility; a liver and lung condition called Alpha 1 anti-trypsin deficiency and selective mutism.
And they’re struggles David was already sadly familiar with after years of seeing wife Katie also suffer from the same conditions.
If he’s lucky, the 38-year-old will manage to squeeze in four hours sleep before heading back out on the afternoon school run and preparing for his next night shift at Chesford Grange Hotel in Kenilworth.
“The decision was taken a few years ago that night shift is the better thing for me to do so, should I need to be, I would be available during the day. I’d be woken up but at least I’d be in the house. It was a decision based on necessity, not career. It’s not a job I wanted to do but it’s a job that needed to be done,” said David.
He added: “Ideally in the evenings I should then probably be going back to sleep but I won’t because I’ll miss time with Katie and the kids. I try and stay up as much as possible. I sometimes try and get an hour in before I head back to work at 10.15pm.
“There have been occasions where I’ve taken them over to see their friends in Towcester and afterwards had to pull over into a layby and try and get some sleep in. But it’s important that they get to spend time with their friends.”
Extra care is also needed for their 10-year-old son Stephen who has severe autism. And it all comes on the back of David’s continued personal health battles after being left with the long-term effects of three bouts of Covid in less than a year.
“It’s knocked me for six. I even had it quite bad over Christmas and New Year. My physical condition now is nothing compared to what it was before. I get breathless quite a lot and physical movement is an exertion. Plus I get a lot of joint pain.”
Reacting to the campaign win, David added: “I was completely shocked to win this because I had no idea Katie had nominated me. I have this gorgeous family and they need a bit of extra help so I just get on with it. I don’t see that as being anything other than what I should be doing as a father and a husband. I don’t want my kids to look back and remember a tortuous childhood because of all these ailments. I want them to have fond memories and stability.”
It’s also against a backdrop of personal heartache for the couple who lost their third child after Katie miscarried at 20 weeks.
Katie recalls: “Keira was one of twins and I’d already lost the other one at 10 weeks. She was born weighing just 258 grams and survived only for a few seconds. You don’t ever get over something like that but we fell quite quickly pregnant with Molly after that which helped give us something else to focus on.”
But it was also while they were still trying to deal with Keira’s loss that, a few months later, Katie suddenly lost her dad to a massive heart attack at the age of just 54.
Katie is especially grateful for her husband’s unstinting support because of her own disabilities, including a debilitating 20-year battle with agoraphobia.
She said: “In 2001 the day after my nan’s funeral, I went into town with my mum and dad and suddenly had this crippling feeling that I needed to go home. I was very close to my nan. I didn’t leave the house for six months after that. I saw a doctor and took some medication and started to get a bit better but didn’t finish my GCSEs.
“Lockdown set me back again recently. When I do go out with David I get quite anxious and jumpy. Just going out and getting something for dinner which people will do without thinking twice about, is quite an ordeal for me.
“When they announced lockdown, in all honesty, I was delighted. That was my ideal situation – being told not to leave the house and having all the kids with me.”
She added: “Last weekend I pushed myself really hard to go to Gulliver’s Land in Milton Keynes for my youngest son Stephen’s birthday. I wasn’t comfortable all day but I did it. I’m determined to try and put the kids first but if I don’t absolutely have to go out, I won’t.”
The family’s dinner reservation at The Red Lion is an occasion Katie also desperately hopes she can make an exception for – and something David is looking forward to.
Jane Hearsey, general manager at the pub, said: “We can’t wait to welcome David and his lovely family to The Red Lion where we will really look after them. And Katie is welcome to reserve a table in one of the quieter corners of the pub if that helps her to relax.
“We were truly touched by this story and, as a close knit community-focused pub, we’re delighted to be able to play our part in giving David a treat. A true Dad In A Million!”
Katie summed up: “He is our Superman and we would be lost without him.”