A Co Down mum whose house is set to be transformed with the help of DIY SOS: The Big Build says a newly-improved home will finally allow her to spend time with her family.
In a DIY SOS first to mark its 20th anniversary, the BBC’s flagship home renovation programme is coming to Northern Ireland this summer to completely reconfigure the McCreight family home in Bangor.
Various health complications mean Mandy McCreight is bed-bound 80pc of the time in her upstairs room and isolated from the rest of her family.
Children Ben (16) and Kara (13) also have complex health needs and are attended to by their main carer and dad Davy (57) in a house that is totally unfit for them.
Mandy has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), a genetic condition affecting the body’s connective tissue, which keeps bones, organs and skin together.
Ben, who attends Longstone Special School in Dundonald, and Kara, a student at Bangor Academy, have also been diagnosed with EDS.
Mandy also suffers from postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), an autonomic nervous system disorder, as well as fibromyalgia and gastroparesis.
She is a power-chair user, but currently can’t use it at her home of 14 years, as it is not wheelchair-adapted.
Mandy said the house needs to be to future-proofed for each family member before it reaches breaking point.
She explained: “I can often be upstairs in my bedroom for days at a time, as the stairs are too difficult to negotiate.
“There’s not enough room in the bedroom for visitors, or to have any kind of life with my family.”
Ben, who also has autism, doesn’t like to visit his mum in her bedroom, so they rarely get to spend any time together.
He spends all his time at home downstairs with his dad.
Kara has mobility issues and chronic fatigue, so she also spends a lot time in her room.
Coping with all this is Davy, who has a back injury, burning feet syndrome and problems with his knees.
He too finds the stairs very difficult, but must negotiate them as Mandy needs her meals and medication.
He needs to reduce these important visits upstairs to try and minimise his symptoms.
There is care support for Mandy every morning and night for half an hour, but otherwise it is up to Davy and the children.
Mandy added: “We have had to adapt to the current situation, but it’s just no way to live and it’s not what I want for my husband and children.
“We have a beautiful home, but it’s a typical 1960s build and just not practical for our needs.
“Nobody is going to change the fact that I need to be in bed a lot of the time, but it will just make such a difference to be able to move around my house when I can.” Mandy said it will “completely change” her whole life and that of her family.
She added: “My dream is to be able to wake up in the morning and, no matter how bad I feel, transfer into my wheelchair, go into the kitchen and say hello to my husband and kids.
“To be able to eat with my family will be incredible, because at the moment I have all my meals in my bedroom.
“We used to have movie nights on Fridays, but that hasn’t happened for a very long time, so to get back into that sort of normal family routine would mean so much.”
The transformation also means that Mandy will finally be able to spend Christmas with her family in her own home.
“For the past few years we have spent Christmas with my parents, who have the space, and they always make it as special as possible,” she added.
“I’m so excited to think that this year I can have my whole family around at ours for Christmas for the first time ever.
“We also have a lovely big garden, which I haven’t been able to access for seven years, so I plan to be out there a lot this summer, no matter what the weather.
She added: “I completely trust the DIY SOS team, because they have spent quite a bit of time with us and know what our issues are.
“They have asked me what I want and the only answer is to be able to spend time with my family.
“I can’t quite believe that that’s finally going to happen.”
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