It is true what they say: there is no place like home, and Drummond family in Cork know this better than most. Featured in the new series of RTÉ show DIY SOS: The Big Build Ireland, Adam Drummond and his parents, Brian and Mar, had been longing to return to their family home on Cork’s northside after Adam suffered a tragic accident at the age of 22.
Adam, an accomplished basketball player, now has a 1% chance of walking again and has been described as a “strongminded” and “amazing” young man.
The location of family home on the north side of the city epitomises much of what Cork is known for: pride, hills, and a tight-knit community. However, the same house proved to be unworkable for Adam and was not suitable for a wheelchair user. As a result, the Drummonds had to move into a friend’s ground floor apartment after the accident, but they have not been able to leave their family home behind.
Between its location on a steep hill and the steps that lead down to the front door, so far, the house had been completely inaccessible for Adam.
“I love Cork but my God how many hills are in this place? It’s something else. I’d flatten it if I had my way,” DIY presenter Baz Ashmawy jokes when we visited him and the team at the Drummond home.
Despite the challenges, with the help of hundreds of volunteers, the DIY SOS team have transformed the home with one goal in mind.
“It’s just to have a house where Adam is completely independent and is accessible,” explains Baz. “He’s a very strongminded - strong physically - young lad. He doesn’t want help, but he needs it at the moment, and he has no access. He hasn’t the freedom to go as he pleases and we’re going to change that.”
Like everyone else who has had the pleasure of meeting Adam, Baz notes his strength, describing him as an “an amazing young man”.
“I’ve a son around his age myself. From a little boy, he [Adam] wanted to be a basketball player. He ended up getting offered scholarships to America to play basketball and he took them up and he was flying it. Then, the came back here and there was a tragic accident,” says Baz.
“To a certain extent, he’s been robbed of a lot of things. He’s been robbed of his dreams. For someone that young, for that to be taken away and even the future that he thought he was going to have and now even his home, and this is all less than a year ago.”
Those volunteering to help the Drummond family made quite the impression on the DIY SOS team with Baz describing the reaction as like no other. It was the people of Cork who made him especially excited for this project, he says.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a reaction like we have had here. I know we would in Cork. Cork people are so proud. They’re so proud and they’re so passionate about Cork and Adam is like that and all the volunteers are like that,” he says.
“In a non-gendered sense, there’s a real brotherhood of people here just altogether doing the right thing for Adam and his family and its quite powerful. This is the one I was really looking forward to. Counties have personalities and Cork’s personality - you want to hang out with it for a while. It’s really good fun.”
On day two of the build, build project manager Brandon Duarte of MMD Construction told me about plans for a lift down to the house to ensure that Adam has direct access to the front door for the first time since the accident. “Access was a big problem, so we had to deal with it. It’s been challenging, but we’re getting there. We’re confident,” he says.
“Adam will be able to drive his car into the front and we have a lift that will lower him down to the front of the house and into the door,” added safety advisor Helena Ryan of Cooga Safety Ltd. “There’s extensive work to be done. We’ve built an extension onto the back of the house – upstairs and downstairs.”
Independence is another important aspect, with Adam to have his own space within the lower half of the extension. With this, he will have direct access into the garden area which I’m promised will be a showstopper.
“You want to create a place he feels good in. He’s a remarkable young lad. An absolutely amazing young lad,” says the man overseeing the garden, Diarmuid Gavin.
Creating a garden that a 23-year-old would find “cool” was a challenge, but Diarmuid has made a space that is accessible while also ensuring it is a place Adam can show off to his friends and enjoy.
“The design really is about bringing the family together,” says interior designer Aoife Rhattigan, and making the most of those “gorgeous” views of the city. “It’s all about accessibility but in a very family orientated kind of way so Adam has space to be by himself or be with his family.”
One aspect noted by Aoife, along with her fellow ‘purple shirts’, is the response]from the people of Cork, with over 100 volunteers on day one alone.
“From the get-go, people just couldn’t be nicer and genuinely couldn’t do enough. The family are not just well liked, they seem to be really loved in the community and it’s really coming through,” she said.
From amazing accessibility for Adam, to a stunning master for Brian and Mar, and a bedroom for granny, who lives around the corner, the team have really pushed the boat out to ensure the Drummond’s have everything they need.
Head electrician Stephen Brennan also ensured that Adam has full control of every aspect of the house – from the blinds, lighting and heating – all through his phone, iPad and voice command.
Safety advisor Helena Ryan has worked on nine builds, and her favourite part by far is finally seeing the family enjoy the home following all of the hard work of the volunteers.
“A lot of people come in here for their own therapies. They’re giving back because they have been in some situations themselves, whether its family members sick or someone they know has an illness – every family has been hit with illness some form or another,” Helena says. “No one complains. Everyone works together.”
As for Adam and for his family, Baz says this build has been a monumental moment in their lives, and the story of how it was done will be a big draw for RTÉ viewers.
“Home is home. Whatever happens, there’s a security and a comfort with being home and this is what this is. This is their home, and this is where he wants to be,” says Baz.
- DIY SOS: The Big Build Ireland, featuring the Drummond family, is on RTÉ One, Sunday, March 26, 6.30pm