DIY SOS team give disabled mum her independence

Mandy McCreight with D I Y S O S team
Mandy McCreight with D I Y S O S team Image credit:

The BBC DIY SOS team have come to the rescue of a mother who is living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome who is isolated to just one room of her family home in Bangor, County Down.

The complex illness means Mandy McCreight is in constant pain and is unable to leave her bedroom, the only times she is able to see her two children, Ben,18 and Kara, 15, is when they go in to visit.

To make matters worse her husband Davy, 59, also various health issues and suffered a back injury which led to long-term pain.

Realising their house needed modifications to make life a little easier for them the couple reached out to DIY SOS.

Mandy told Mirror Online: “After years of trying everything possible to sort out our housing problems, I’d given up hope.

“So I thought I had nothing to lose when I applied to DIY SOS in August 2018. I didn’t think I’d ever hear back but in June 2019 they completely renovated our home. It was our dream come true. It’s better than winning the lottery and I’ll be forever grateful.”

The mother first felt something was wrong when she was pregnant with Ben in 2002.

She explained: “Nobody knew what was wrong with me, I just kept being told that it’d get better after the pregnancy.

“But when I fell pregnant with Kara, I knew I was expecting before I even took a test because my pain levels were so high. The second pregnancy was absolutely awful from start to finish and when I left my job to go on maternity leave, deep down I knew that I wouldn’t be back.

“I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to recover this time and I was right.”

But Mandy’s condition deteriorated by the time she gave birth to Kara.

“I couldn’t feed Kara, I couldn’t bathe her, I couldn’t push her pram,” she admitted. “So Ben and Kara have had a mum that’s been disabled all their lives. They’ve never known me any other way.”

Sadly both Ben and Kara have been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome as well, making their mum worried about their future.

Mandy said: “It was a shock. Somebody asked me, ‘Will Kara be in a wheelchair like you one day?’ and I said I hope and pray the answer is no, but with our medical condition I can’t honestly say that she won’t be.

“Seven years ago I got my first power chair but I couldn’t get it through the front door because there was a massive step. And if I did, I couldn’t move it anywhere as the house wasn’t adapted.

“My condition meant I couldn’t be the mum I wanted to be. Davy was really mum and dad to the kids. The only time I’d see them was when they came to visit me in bed. But they’re teenagers now so they don’t want to be spending a lot of time in Mum’s bedroom with her.

“It was very lonely and isolating.”

The DIY SOS lads made the family home accessible by putting a lift on the first floor, widening the doors, installing a wet room and an easy route for Mandy so she can now go to her back garden.

She said: “It’s brilliant. I was in my bedroom around 90% of the time before, and now it’s around 5%.

“Before Covid-19, I was also going out more than I had been in years.

“We were going out just for the sake of it – not just for a hospital appointment or to see the kids’ teachers, just going out as a family. The past two summers I’ve been out in the garden more than I had been for 15 years.

“Ben turned 18 over the summer and we had a garden party with a marquee and it was so lovely to invite his teachers and his friends to the house so we could show it off.”

DIY SOS presenter Nick Knowles said: “In the 20 years that we’ve been doing DIY SOS we’ve been all over the UK but something very special has happened here.

“When we told this community that there was a mum pretty much trapped in her bedroom and unable to be part of the family, the response was incredible from all over Northern Ireland – 900 applications on the first day. And those people have made a huge difference because a mum can be a mum again.

“She can be a wife to her husband and her kids have got much more of a chance of a normal family life – which is what everybody wants.”

Mandy added: “My family is an example to others to never give up hope because you never know when something might happen. I always have hope that things will get better.”

DIY SOS is on BBC One Tonight, Monday February 22 at 9pm and available afterwards on BBC iPlayer.