It could be an episode of the TV series Grey’s Anatomy. The love story of nurse Christoph Cottignie (34) and doctor Ine Van Oeteren (32) also begins in the hospital. During his night shift, he musters up all his courage to write a letter to that graceful young doctor who is doing an internship in his department.
Gert Reynders and Raymond Rutten
It is October 2018. Christoph Cottignie has been working at the Sint-Vincentius hospital in Antwerp for eight years. Recently, a young female doctor in training from the distant Lanklaar (Dilsen-Stokkem) has been walking around in his department. She immediately catches the attention of the young male nurse. “I had already tried to find her on Facebook in vain. She could not be found on other social media either,” says Christoph. “I also didn’t dare to speak to her when I passed her in the corridor of the hospital. I found that quite embarrassing with all those colleagues around.”
“Then I have it old school done with a letter. During my night shift I crawled into my pen. After several drafts and formulations, I finally dared to put my note under her keyboard. In very careful terms I asked her in that letter if she would like to go for a drink with me in the city. I soon regretted it. ‘Oops, what have I done now’, that’s how it popped into my head.”
Christoph did not immediately receive an answer to his letter. So the doubts only increased. But two days later the redeeming message came. “I would like to have a drink with you,” Ine wrote. It sounded like music to Christoph’s ears. “We agreed a few weeks later. On our first date we went to a cozy Italian restaurant. It clicked immediately. We turned out to have a lot of the same interests. We both had a cat as a pet. Conversational enough. After that dinner we went for a cocktail at the Groenplaats in Antwerp. It was already quite late when we got back to the hospital where her bike was still standing. It was cold and wet. After some insistence, I was allowed to take her home by car.”
Bottle of cava
Christoph and Ine agreed to meet again a week later. But a second date was not long in coming. “It’s my birthday on November 11,” says Christoph. “A birthday party with the family was planned on that day. I had told Ine that I would come to her after that party. But that party turned out pretty well. At a certain moment I left anyway and I brought a piece of cake and a bottle of cava for Ine. That was not the best idea, because Ine turned out not to like cava at all.”
Fortunately, that blunder did not stand in the way of the fledgling love. The two never left each other. When Ine received an offer to work at the ZOL in Genk, Christoph did not hesitate for a moment. He quit his job at Sint-Vincentius Hospital, left his familiar home in Hove in Antwerp and followed his love to Limburg. “Not such a big risk, because nurses are looking for them everywhere,” he says. They both now work at the ZOL in Genk: Christoph as an intensive care nurse and Ine as a cardiologist in training. “I moved to Hasselt in July last year. Normally we would get married on July 1, 2023, but for family reasons we brought that date forward to November 12, 2022. One day after my birthday,” Christoph nods.
Whether he likes the move from the metropolis of Antwerp to green Limburg? “Certainly, I had absolutely no problem following Ine to Limburg. It was no problem to find a job as a nurse here. I have fantastic colleagues in the ZOL. I also really like life in Limburg outside of work. The people are very friendly. Here everyone says hello to each other.”