This is the second project by Band of Builders for Martin, a general builder who was left paralysed after a severe traumatic brain injury from a fractured skull after a fall at work.
In the past few years, Martin’s family have successfully obtained grants, as their neighbour Mary and members of the local community rallied round and did an amazing job of crowdfunding for internal and external adaptations. This included an extension that allowed for the construction of a wet room – to help Martin regain his independence and live comfortably at home with his wife.
This project will see the flooring on the ground floor levelled and the doorways widened to make it easier for Martin to move around his home in his wheelchair.
Martin Wilks fell off a stepladder and hit his head on a concrete planter in June 2018. He has been left paralysed from the chest down. In the immediate aftermath of his accident, he was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and put into an induced coma, with the family told to expect the worst. After being woken from his coma, he fell into another coma – this time he came around with no movement, not even able to open his own eyes. After weeks of his family waiting by his bedside, his eyes eventually opened and he smiled. It took another few weeks for him to be able to move his fingers slightly, helped by his family visiting daily and repeatedly moving his fingers and hands to help trigger his brain. During his stay at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, he also suffered strokes, seizures, infections, pneumonia and a lung abscess.
It’s been a long road to rehabilitation, with the 68-year-old initially residing at a specialist neuro-rehabilitation unit in Leamington Spa, where he was able to regain some use of his arms. During this time, he was set back by another severe pneumonia infection that put him in Warwick and Coventry hospitals on and off, where he missed out on a lot of vital physio. Losing his muscle and body weight, he dropped to 35 kilos.
He finally returned home in February 2019. He received weekly physio appointments from the local brain injury team and worked on his exercises with his family. He was paralysed from the chest down when he came home, and the brain injury team worked on teaching him to hold himself up. The rehabilitation was again hampered because he wasn’t able to have the home visits and physio due to Covid and the various lockdowns.
Thankfully, he has started attending a specialist gym once a week to use a motorised bike. This repeated process is helping his brain connect with his muscles, and he recently travelled a mile unaided on the machine. He is now starting to use a manual wheelchair (as well as his big one), which has made a massive difference, most notably because his wife Helen’s COPD and emphysema have worsened over the last couple of years and she now uses oxygen, which she carries around with her – making it hard for her to push Martin.
This is the second project by Band of Builders for Martin. The first was project number 9 – where we updated Martin’s heating system by installing a new wood-burning stove to replace an open fire that was unsafe. As Martin lives in a rural location, he relied on using an oil-fired boiler, which was expensive and was difficult to refill due to the location of the home, so installing the wood burner made it much easier and more economical for Martin’s family to heat their home.
This project will primarily focus on making the ground floor level and widening doorways to provide easier access for Martin in his wheelchair.
Plans are also in place for secondary glazing to the original windows of the cottage and PVC flush casements to the extensions. This covers the kitchen, Helen’s room and the room that the carers stay in. There will also be new composite doors to meet Part M (access) of the Building Regulations.
Project Lead Richard Dombrowski estimates that this one should take 7–8 days and involve up to ten volunteers.