How we met: ‘He saved my life – and he’s drop-dead gorgeous’

·4 min read

In 1995, Patrick was a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, teaching behavioural sciences. One night in March, he was invited to a friend’s house for a dinner party. “I didn’t realise it was a matchmaking thing. I was tired and nearly pulled out, but the host was very insistent,” he says.

It was there that he met Richard, a Hong Kong local who was teaching at a further education college. After dinner, they found themselves outside, talking. “I thought he was handsome and he seemed very thoughtful. He had this very melancholy book in his hand,” remembers Patrick. They swapped numbers at the end of the night.

Over the next few weeks, Patrick left a couple of phone messages for Richard, but they didn’t manage to connect. In April, they met again, at another dinner party. “The vibe at that party was more relaxed and we listened to music and danced. It was really nice catching up,” says Richard. Although he thought Patrick was good-looking and “a colourful dresser”, he wasn’t sure he was his type. “I thought he might be a player,” he says.

He soon changed his mind, and they went back to Patrick’s flat that night for a night cap. They started to date, enjoying meals out, as well as trips to the cinema and ballet. “Hong Kong was a little less liberal than the UK at the time towards same-sex relationships,” says Patrick. “There was still discrimination against men sharing an apartment. At the same time, there were lots of gay clubs, so it wasn’t as strict as some places.”

They spent time exploring the region, walking Richard’s dogs and going on sailing trips. In 1997, Richard moved to London to study fashion, while Patrick stayed in Hong Kong to complete his contract. “He lived in my flat and I went back for visits,” Patrick says.

Two years later, Patrick returned to the UK permanently and they moved in together in Greenwich, south London. Not long after his return, Patrick became unwell and doctors soon discovered that his kidneys were failing.

Richard turns his art to everything – and creates magic

Patrick

“I was born with an inherited kidney condition,” says Patrick. “I’d been taking care of myself but the disease had started to progress and I needed a transplant.”

For Richard, watching Patrick’s health deteriorate was heartbreaking. “He would be vomiting every morning, sometimes mid-meal. It was unbearable to see him suffering like that.”

In 2002, Richard was found to be a suitable transplant match for Patrick, meaning that he was able to donate one of his kidneys to him. “Richard saved my life. We were put in beds next to each other and he was discharged just before me.”

In 2006, Patrick got a job at Nottingham University, and spent 10 years living part-time in the Midlands, coming home at weekends. After completing his fashion course, Richard set up a shop for a few years, before moving into interior design.

By 2017, Patrick had moved back to London, but the kidney Richard had donated years earlier had started to fail. “Typically, a kidney from a live donor will last up to 20 years,” he says.

He went back on dialysis, before having a second transplant operation two months ago. They have been shielding throughout the pandemic, but are looking forward to more freedom as Patrick recovers. This year, they plan to celebrate their 50th and 60th birthdays together with friends.

The pair share interests in opera and travel, and Patrick appreciates his partner’s artistic nature. “He’s a fashion designer but he turns his art to everything and creates magic. I have a great appreciation for art but no skill, so I really admire that. He’s also caring, compassionate and drop-dead gorgeous.”

Richard loves Patrick’s passion. “Some people focus on money and forget to be passionate about life,” he says. “He is always passionate and curious, with a huge appreciation for art and design.”

Patrick often thinks about how differently his life might have turned out if he’d turned down that dinner party invite in 1995.

“I’m very grateful I went. Richard is a wonderfully generous person who has brought joy to me and our union.”

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