"Our DIY SOS makeover has brought four generations back together under one roof"’
Mary Owen, a former railway station manager and current St Oswald’s Hospice volunteer, recently welcomed the BBC’s DIY SOS team into her home which was in urgent need of renovation.
The house, based in Longframlington, Northumberland, is hundreds of years old and has previously been everything from a pie and pea shop, a post office and an antiques store serving the local community. The home needed major restoration work with the walls, roofs and windows needing lots of attention and the floors were all on different levels meaning it wasn’t practical for the family to carry out caring duties and responsibilities.
Mary, 49, explained: “The results of the makeover are stunning. The house truly feels like a beautiful home again. It’s already proving to work incredibly well for our daughter Bobbie, who has severe disabilities, autism and epilepsy. The home is safer for Bobbie, easier for me to manage as I had a stroke a few years ago, and it means we now have space for my mum and nan to move in with us as they have a bedroom each and a shared bathroom. Nan has been receiving specialist hospice care, although not at St Oswald’s Hospice, for over 50 years for Lymphoedema in her legs and in recent years developed dementia. Nan always expressed how she would rather be surrounded by her own family at home rather than be in a care home and this makeover has meant she can be cared for and supported by her own family, which means so much to all of us.
“The build itself took 10 days and the designer Gaby, the host Nick Knowles, and the whole team from DIY SOS were incredibly friendly and made everything as gentle and as smooth as possible. The whole team really took the time to get to know us and did tons of research to find out what would work for us and what we wanted to get out of the makeover ensuring we were happy with the proposed changes.
“The makeover has brought four generations of family back together under one roof and allowed us to share our caring responsibilities. It will truly make life easier for every member of our family. My mum is currently looking after my nan on her own and has no free time. Allowing us the space to all live together means we can share out our family caring duties for my daughter Bobbie and my nan, and it will allow us to feel more supported and to have some freedom back.”
Mary, whose work on the railways led to her being a station manager for Coventry, Rugby and Wolverhampton stations in the Midlands, had intended to carry on working in the rail sector when she moved to the North East until her daughter Bobbie got poorly. She explains how she had the double knock of her daughter becoming ill and not being able to work full-time and then having to give up work altogether when she herself got ill after being bitten by a tick and subsequently having a stroke. This led to her volunteering with St Oswald’s Hospice which she credits with helping her to feel a sense of normality.
Mary said: “After having had a long and successful career working in rail, I was feeling pretty down and unable to work due to my condition. I initially contacted the Stroke Association who put me into contact with another charity called Momentum who recommended volunteering with St Oswald’s Hospice. “Not being able to work, was honestly like a grieving process for me. Volunteering with St Oswald’s Hospice Morpeth shop has been a way of restoring some normality in my life and having a break from my caring responsibilities. Julie (Shop Manager) worked around the difficulties I had and ensured the shop environment was safe for me. When you have a disability or are a carer yourself you often feel as though you can’t be as reliable. So volunteering takes me out of myself and makes me feel useful for a few hours. It’s a lovely thing to do when you can’t manage a work commitment, remaining active and helping others. I feel such a strong sense of independence in the short period of time I volunteer. Volunteering is a great way of getting back into the world of work and easing yourself in gently. The team of volunteers are massively supportive. They let me be me without all the complications and are so lovely and supportive. They’re great company and don’t ask questions about my condition or family life, but they also let me offload if I need to.”
Julie Wilson, Shop Manager at St Oswald’s Hospice Morpeth shop, said: “Mary is a fantastic member of our team and a superb volunteer. Whatever challenges she has going on in her own life to do with managing her own condition or caring for her daughter, she never complains. She is a proper trooper who just gets on with things. She gets along with everyone, is a real laugh and shares lots of lovely stories about her family. We’re all really pleased for her and the whole team is dead chuffed. We also found out that one of my other shop volunteers also previously lived in the house prior to Mary! Mary is so deserving of this home makeover and everyone at St Oswald’s Hospice cannot wait to watch the final results on TV.”
Mary’s episode will air on BBC One at 8PM on Tuesday 31st May. If you want to learn more about St Oswald's Hospice, as well as the volunteering opportunities we have available, head to www.stoswaldsuk.org/volunteer
Image credit: Emma Solomon Photography