GLEN resident Veronica Feehan-Mullane felt she had no choice but to speak out in public last November, and tell the people of Cork of the heartache and stress she was enduring.
Her partner, Phil Burn, had suffered a stroke in October, 2016. He was in an induced coma for a week before being moved to intensive care. He suffered partial brain damage as a result of his stroke and spent the next 11 months in and out of hospital.
The couple had been awarded a grant to have their house in The Glen adapted for Phil’s needs following his illness. Veronica employed a builder to carry out the work, who asked for payment before the grant was received.
She said: “I handed over €50,000 to the builder in the beginning. Then I had to borrow some money from family members. In total, I paid close to €60,000.” When the work was completed, problems began to arise.
Veronica said: “I didn’t know anything about building. I gave him the money. I thought they were doing their job. We ended up with a leak and other things went wrong.
“I tried to get onto the builder to address these things that needed to be done. He was more or less ignoring me until I sent a letter saying I would have to seek legal advice or go to social media.”
Veronica contacted a solicitor who sent an engineer to the house to assess the damage.
Communications between Veronica’s solicitor and the builder’s solicitor were batted back and forth for over a year. Veronica realised that she couldn’t afford to bring the builder to court and felt she needed to reach out to the public via the airwaves.
“To take the builder to court would have cost between five and ten thousand euros. They knew I couldn’t afford that... I contacted 96fm in the hope that someone might be able to help me.”
After Veronica told her story to Deirdre O’Shaughnessy, the radio station was inundated with calls from carpenters, plumbers, electricians and builders, all offering their services to help Veronica and Phil restore their house and make it user-friendly for his needs.
“After Christmas, Deirdre contacted me and said Eamon Hetherington from GPD would probably be the best to go with because his company could do everything. He came up to the house and assessed the damage and agreed to start the work on February 3.”
Brothers Eamon and John Hetherington run GPD. Their family have worked in the building trade for generations, dating back to the 1930s.
Eamon heard Veronica’s plight on radionand was moved to help her. He rang the station and said he was willing to assess Veronica’s house and see what work needed to be done.
He contacted Veronica’s solicitor to check there were no legal proceedings taking place against the first builder. Veronica’s solicitor explained that Veronica was not in a position financially to take the original builder to court.
Eamon said: “We assessed the house. The work originally completed was unthought out for Phil’s needs. There was a step at the front door which meant the electric wheelchair couldn’t go over it. The shower room should have been a wet room as opposed to a shower room.
“There was leaking pipe under the floor which is an easy fix but Veronica lost all the timber flooring over that.
“It made her life very difficult for getting Phil in and out of the house.
“If the shower had been a wet room, it would have made life so much easier for her. While it would have made Phil’s life easier.
“Veronica is the lady looking after Phil so things needed to be made easy for her to do that job.”
Eamon received a plethora of calls from other people in the building trade who wanted to help fix the problems in Veronica’s house. Dan Twomey, from Cork Builders Providers, rang him to say he would provide materials. Jim O’ Rourke, an electrical contractor, offered all the labour for plumbing and electrical work that needed to be done. Chadwicks also supplied materials needed.
Eamon said: “There was a great outpouring of help. I got calls from men I worked with 20 years ago, saying they wanted to get involved. One man in particular said he had worked with Phil in the past and he wanted to help. It renewed my thoughts about human nature.”
Work on Veronica and Phil’s house took two weeks to complete.
Eamon said: “We were delighted to help and are fully behind Veronica and Phil in their project and we will get it sorted for them.”
Veronica was overwhelmed by the support she and Phil have been offered by the people of Cork.
While her house was being renovated, the manager of The Commons Inn, Ewan Smith, allowed two of Veronica’s bichon frise dogs to stay with her in her hotel room. She stayed there during the week while the house was being renovated.
Having a quiet place for her beloved dogs while building work was going on took the pressure off her.
Phil is back in hospital at the moment and has unfortunately received a cancer diagnosis.
Veronica visits him every day and is taking things one day at a time while she waits to find out what treatment he will receive.
Being a full-time carer is a demanding job and the issues with Veronica’s house added to her stress.
The help offered by Eamon and other people around Cork means a lot to her.
She said: “Being in this situation for over three years, with Phil suffering a stroke, as happens when people get sick or old, people forget them, I’ve felt I’ve been on my own and on top of that, the worry about the house, the worry of dealing with the mortgage, I wasn’t expecting the help offered. I just couldn’t believe it.”
She said that being a full-time carer is “all-consuming”.
“I only realised how tough it has been when I had a moment to lie down. In three and a half years, I couldn’t be sick or have a lie in. I have to be up early every day to make sure Phil takes his medication, shower and dress him, organise his day and appointments.”
Phil is waiting to find out if he will receive radiotherapy to treat his cancer.
Veronica said: “Before this setback, Phil was happy out, going to Headway three mornings a week. He loved his food. He was hiding jellies under his pillow, even though he wasn’t allowed them because he’s a diabetic.
Veronica praised Marian Walsh from Headway for all the support she has given the couple.
She is in the dark as to what Phil’s needs will be in future.
“Now, he can’t eat or drink and his vocal cords are damaged. I don’t know what his new needs are going to be when he comes out of hospital.”
The outpouring of help to restore their home, from Eamon and the staff at GPD and from many others around Cork, has offered a small ray of sunshine in Veronica and Phil’s lives as they face their next set of challenges.