St Albans family with disabled child thanks builder for finishing “life-changing” house alterations

Andy and Dominic.

Andy and Dominic. - Credit: Archant

A disabled 11-year-old and his family - who have been living in a building site for six years - have offered their deepest thanks to a workman who is making “life-changing” alterations to the house for free.

The outside of the building. Picture: Andy Hill

The outside of the building. Picture: Andy Hill - Credit: Archant

Andy Hill is building a bedroom and wetroom for St Albans boy Dominic Blower, who has such a rare disorder that doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) are yet to settle on a diagnosis.

Symptoms, which started when he was six weeks old, mean Dominic cannot walk, has to be fed with a tube, endures growth and thyroid problems, has suffered several surgeries, and spends a lot of time at GOSH.

Dominic’s mum Renata, 43, said: “Because we don’t know what is wrong with him, we can’t predict anything and we don’t know quite how to treat him. We don’t know how his body will react to anything.

“But he is a very funny, very happy, very smiley kid. It’s only physically his body lets him down a lot.”

Andy Hill in the new wetroom.

Andy Hill in the new wetroom. - Credit: Archant

When they moved to Sopwell in 2008, the family anticipated adapting the house to cater for Dominic’s needs - but had no idea how difficult it would be.

After obtaining a disability grant from St Albans district council (SADC) for £30,000, and a personal loan on top, a builder was hired to convert the ground floor for Dominic.

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However, the “cowboy” workmen left the house as a dangerous building site, Renata said.

Foundations were laid on soft earth, brickwork is unstable, toilet pipes were left running through the living room, live wires are exposed in the kitchen, and there are physical gaps in the ceilings.

How the former builders left the house. Picture: Andy Hill

How the former builders left the house. Picture: Andy Hill - Credit: Archant

Renata said: “Everything had to be undone and redone so we ran out of money and we have been living in an unsafe house ever since.

“The whole house has been duct taped together.”

While all this has been going on, Dominic is still seeing multiple consultants at GOSH and at one point there was a suggestion that Dominic should live at the hospital while the house is fixed.

At home, Renata has to carry him up and down the stairs - which become increasingly dangerous for both Dominic and Renata as the pre-teen grows older.

Dominic Blower

Dominic Blower - Credit: Archant

She added: “For Dominic it’s so important he is independent. I want that for him and for his confidence and I want to teach him that skill, as without it there’s no quality of life.”

Renata’s shoulder is already permanently damaged from lifting Dominic, but the family were “stuck” - few building companies would come to repair the house because it was too risky.

Then, they received the unexpected call from Welwyn Garden City builder Andy to say he would come and complete the work for free.

He is an ex-policeman who set up AJ Hill Property in 2015 - a building company which uses profits from conventional jobs to fund charity projects.

The wetroom is Andy’s first charity job because it has taken two and a half years to build up enough money.

The 37-year-old found Dominic’s project by appealing on Facebook for nominations.

Andy said: “The house looks horrific, it’s been about six years and they’ve basically been living in a building site - you have to see it to believe it.

“Years ago I used to be a police officer and I did that because I wanted to help people. But then very rapidly it became obvious we weren’t helping people anymore so I thought I would help people on my own.

“The first project was a difficult choice so I sought advise from different people, but this project seemed to make the most amount of difference to the most number of people in one job.”

Andy hopes he will be able to raise money quicker for the next project because AJ Hill Properties is about to merge with Spread and Spark Ltd, to create Bluespark Design and Build. It will have the same ethos - profits towards a charity job - just on a larger scale.

He has thanked Topps Tiles which donated materials for Dominic’s wetroom.

Renata said: “When we heard I was absolutely in shock and the kids were screaming and running around the house, none of us would believe this could happen.

“Just having the downstairs bedroom and wetroom done is important because I can buy myself time to think about the rest of the house without carrying him up and down the stairs. Andy is the nicest guy I have ever met.

“It is literally life-changing, it is the difference between him living at home.”

Dominic has two siblings, 15-year-old Elliot and 13-year-old Lilia.