Page last updated at 15:21 GMT, Sunday, 21 March 2010

Blinded soldier falls in love with carer

Rifleman Paul Jacobs and Louise Smith
Rifleman Jacobs fell in love with Louise Smith while she cared for him

The Florence Nightingale effect is alive for a British soldier who fell in love with his carer after being blinded by a bomb in Afghanistan.

Rifleman Paul Jacobs has been awarded the George Medal for his bravery after continuing to protect his colleagues when he was injured by the Taliban bomb last year.

The 21-year-old from Ramsgate, Kent, said the award, which was given for his "sheer personal courage and startling determination", was an honour for all his comrades who died in Afghanistan.

He said he remembered very little about the incident before waking up at Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, where injured soldiers are treated.

It was there that he met healthcare assistant Louise Smith, 24, of Stourbridge, West Midlands.

'A good girl'

The couple fell in love and became engaged in February.

Rifleman Jacobs said his injuries had not dampened his spirits.

He slowly made an impression on me. He's always joking, he never stops
Louise Smith

He said: "It's great, get blown up and pull your nurse. It's all good.

"She met me. She bought me some daisies and saw the twinkle in my eye, she was just a nurse.

"It's when she took me to the cinema I thought I'd propose to her. It was a good movie but I can't remember it.

"She's a good girl, she looks after me."

Miss Smith, who has worked as a healthcare assistant at Selly Oak Hospital for just over a year, said she fell in love with Rifleman Jacobs' sense of humour.

'A tough time'

She said: "He slowly made an impression on me. He's always joking, he never stops.

"You just get to know the guys when they're on the wards.

Rfn Jacobs awarded the George Cross
Rfn Jacobs was awarded the George Medal for his courage

"You have to have a laugh with them. It's more uplifting than being serious about things because some of the situations are really sad. I consider it part of the job."

Rifleman Jacobs said he was "just doing his job" in Afghanistan.

After collecting his George Medal on Friday, he said: "It's a reminder of those who fell and you've just got to honour them, it was a tough time."

Describing the incident, he said: "Another lad from the platoon decided to do a small search up an alleyway and he tripped a device, killing him. There was nothing left of him."

He said there was a second explosion and then another blast which killed a second colleague and injured him.

He added: "I can't really remember too much apart from seeing [the dead soldier] and then waking up in Selly Oak."

'Don't look back'

Rifleman Jacobs is now undergoing rehabilitation in West Sussex at St Dunstan's Centre - a charity which provides support for visually impaired ex-servicemen.

He said: "It's a good place. They've taught me a lot, like how to get back on the computers, how to use a white cane and confidence. That's what St Dunstan's offers you.

"It's hard but St Dunstan's have worked with me individually on a daily basis and everything is done at my pace, so I've got a lot of respect for St Dunstan's."

Rifleman Jacobs said he believed his future was bright.

He said: "You've just got to go for it and don't look back.

"It's going to be good. Don't look back in anger and all that."

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