For our first project in Northern Ireland, more than 50 volunteers built a new sunroom extension to the family kitchen for Kevin McGowan, a 65-year-old father of six who has progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML).
Kevin was a hard-working and enthusiastic brick layer turned contractor from Toomebridge Northern Ireland, who has been living with a significant disability. His wife Margaret has adopted the role of his primary carer.
In 2011 aged 54, Kevin began to notice difficulty walking, talking and swallowing. These symptoms progressed aggressively over a period of 8 months leaving doctors puzzled - and his family in a state of distress. Following a long admission with countless investigations, eventually he was given the devastating diagnosis of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). This extremely rare condition has almost never occurred in a previously healthy individual. It causes irreversible brain damage and has no successful treatment to date, usually resulting in death within a year of diagnosis.
Despite defying the odds and surviving, Kevin’s disease has destroyed his life. It has stripped him of his independence and resulted in insurmountable financial pressure, as Kevin was the sole earner for his family of eight. Instead of enjoying retirement, he is bed-bound, fed via a tube and has incomprehensible speech. Thankfully, Kevin’s mind and cognition were spared, allowing him to enjoy watching his six children grow up. His 24-hour care has been provided by his devoted wife, Margaret and community support for the past 10 years.
This 8-day project was number 26 for us. We extended onto the rear of the property by building a sunroom which followed through from the family kitchen of Kevin and Margaret’s home - to provide a more comfortable living area.
We also landscaped the exterior by creating a wraparound access ramp to make it much easier for Kevin to get out into the garden in his wheelchair and also into the Motability vehicle so that Margaret can drive him around.