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In September we were honoured to provide our on site Wi-Fi services to the crew on the DIY SOS build to help a local family just up the road from us in North Shields.

The team were here to help local family Rachael and industrial electrician John who live in a semi-detached 1950s house, with their 3 children, Isabelle (10), Anna (5) and Evelyn (3) who has a rare genetic condition called CHARGE syndrome. This has many associated medical complications including chronic kidney failure which requires her to be hooked up to a dialysis machine overnight. She is immobile, cannot sit unaided, is registered blind and requires 24 hour care. When she was born she was whisked away immediately to intensive care after doctors discovered a hole in her heart. She needed surgery but became septic, resulting in her kidneys failing. Rachel had to spend the entirety of her maternity leave in the hospital with Evelyn, forcing her apart from her other young daughters and husband John for the majority of the time. Evelyn has had to undergo many other hospital procedures since, including major heart surgery. Her condition means her older sisters Isabelle (10) and Anna (5) are also young carers, despite still being in primary school. Rachael had to give up work to become a full-time carer. Evelyn’s room is too small for her medical equipment and at present they are unable to fit a hoist or adapted bed which she desperately needs. As she grows and develops she will need more space to accommodate her increasing medical difficulties and medical supplies.

The DIY SOS Build set out to build a single story extension at the rear of the property and convert the garage (under permitted development) into a bedroom and separate bathroom for Evelyn. This will accommodate Evelyn’s equipment and provide a safe space for an adapted bed, hoist, dialysis equipment and a sensory area. Currently they have to carry Evelyn upstairs and this is causing back problems for Rachael.
Her current room is too small for an adapted bed. With Evelyn moving downstairs, this will allow Isabelle and Anna to have a bedroom each as they currently share. Evelyn cannot be left alone, so they need the downstairs area to be more open plan. They also need a huge increase in storage for Evelyn’s medical supplies – they had to build a shed in the garden which isn’t a permanent solution and still doesn’t give them enough space. They need a sterile preparation area for Evelyn’s medical needs, currently this is done in the kitchen and due to a lack of space she is changed on the dining room table. As Evelyn is susceptible to infections, they need to improve the double glazing which causes problems in winter and to make the house warmer in general.

We only played a small part in this life changing build but even to be a small part of it was incredible. Seeing a community rally around a family in need of help was inspiring, heartwarming and emotional. We were honoured to have been involved and like Nick Knowles said at the big reveal we’ll think of them and be humbled, every time we drive past their house. We’ll also be reminded of what can be achieved when we all pull together and of what a fantastic community we live in.