With the help of Matthew’s school, Wrockwardine Wood Junior School, they managed to raise £52,000 and were on the brink of commissioning work when DIY SOS contacted them. DIY SOS ‘The Big Build’ is the popular TV programme hosted by Nick Knowles that provides extensive home conversions for families in need. Matthew’s headmistress had written to the programme’s production company seeking help so the funds already collected could be retained for Matthew’s ongoing care and rehabilitation. Following assessment of the family’s situation, DIY SOS agreed to deliver the project.
This ‘DIY SOS Big Build’ was one of the largest ever attempted by the TV programme. It involved the complete remodelling of the house to include a fully accessible ground floor, driveway and garden so seamless wheelchair and hoist transfers could be achieved. A new single storey extension was constructed at the rear of the house for an adapted bedroom and specialist ensuite bathroom with direct access to the redesigned garden.
Abacus worked closely with DIY SOS to ensure a Gemini bath was suitable for Matthew’s needs. A site survey was completed by Abacus and all the necessary pre-installation information was supplied so the bathroom could be planned appropriately. During the build, Abacus were able to efficiently install the Gemini at very short notice so the challenging project deadline was not compromised.
Following nine days of intensive construction and extensive remodelling of the Cooper’s home, the family were invited back for the ‘reveal day’ which was attended by David Bertorelli and Brett Smith from Abacus. David and Brett were thanked by the Cooper family for the generous Abacus donation which helped Matthew return home.
Despite needing specialist care 24/7 Matthew remains positive and is now able to enjoy being at home with his family. His parents and carers are able to move Matthew freely around the ground floor as the layout is open plan and spacious. There is a ceiling track hoist connecting Matthew’s bedroom with his en-suite accessible bathroom so he can be transferred from bed to bath without interuption.
The variable height Gemini bath provides advanced support for Matthew and his carers as it encompasses an integrated changing, drying and bathing platform. When it is bath-time Matthew is lowered onto the platform and a detachable postural support. The Gemini containing temperature controlled water is then gently raised. Once Matthew is relaxed in the water, the bath and platform are lifted further so his parents and carers can wash him without the need to bend or stoop.
This process ensures several awkward transfers are eliminated and Matthew’s carers can avoid manual lifting and potential back injury. Matthew also benefits from remaining warmer and comfortable for longer as the changing and drying process is much quicker.
Abacus’ donation of a Gemini bath is providing significant benefits to Matthew and his family. His mother Sue comments:
“Matthew has always loved a bath. When he was in the TCT ward it wasn’t easy for him to have a bath as he either had to be transferred to the other side of the hospital or visit Acorns Children’s Hospice. At the Hospice they had a height adjustable bath and I really hoped for one when our house was converted by DIY SOS. I asked the production team for a specialist bath but never imagined we would own one. On the reveal day it was amazing to see the Gemini but not as amazing as seeing Matt’s face for the first time when he had a bath. Well, his face lit up like he was in ecstasy, he just lay there with his eyes shut and the biggest smile on his face. Matthew’s left side is stronger than his right side however when he is in the bath he can kick his right leg which he enjoys. As well as Doctor Who, Matt is a big Thunderbirds fan so we hum the theme tune when his bath is going up and down, like he is Virgil Tracy!”
“Abacus and their representative David Bertorelli have been fantastic. David has given my carers and I training on how to use the bath and has put me in touch with so many useful people. Now we’ve used the Gemini many times, I understand how much safer it is than showering in my opinion, especially as Matt has a tracheotomy which needs to be kept clear of water. With the ceiling rail hoist and sling I can easily move Matt from his ‘Tardis themed’ bedroom to the bath without any manual lifting. One day recently he seemed to be going to sleep in the bath as he was so relaxed, we had to gently wake him up!’
Cecilia, one of Matthew’s carers added:
“Matthew is lovely to work with, he is the most patient and tolerant child I have ever met. He loves having a bath and for me, the Gemini is an absolute joy to use. I have another client who I have to hoist into a standard bath everyday which is really affecting my back. I have no back ache when bathing Matthew as I just lift the Gemini up without the need to bend. I know that Matthew is safe when in the bath and I feel reassured he is comfortable especially as the postural support stops him sliding down.”
“Nick, Jules, Billy and the rest of the DIY SOS team were so supportive and really nice. It was unbelievable how many tradespeople came to help, I know on the reveal day, I was so overwhelmed I just didn’t know how to say thank you. Words just didn’t seem enough for this life-changing gift. My family can now move forward together as we have always done and the house lets us remain as one. Throughout Matthew’s ongoing treatment and rehabilitation he always has a determined and accepting attitude, whatever his condition, he will make the best of it. His recent targeted physio is starting to make a difference and I’m sure the Gemini bath is helping with this programme. He is always more relaxed after a bath and we see more smiles.”