Being all together in revamped home is a Christmas dream come true for family

It’s almost a month since the Flynn family moved back into their renovated home in Cobh, changing their lives forever, especially for four-year-old Kate, who suffers breathing problems. CHRIS DUNNE catches up with them to reflect on a momentous year
Being all together in revamped home is a Christmas dream come true for family
Kate Flynn, Cobh all excited about Christmas in the family's newly adapted/renovated family home in Cobh, recently completed by Sigma Homes. Pic; Larry Cummins

“OUR new home is life-changing,” says Lisa Flynn. “It is a gift. There is so much comfort for Kate, for the boys and for us. The house has the wow factor. Sigma Homes gave us our dream home.”

The Flynns still can’t believe their Christmas miracle.

No.36, Riverside Rise in Cobh, now truly feels like home.

Lisa said: “The enormity of the stress has been lifted now that we have so much comfort. I feel like a new woman. There seemed nowhere else for us to turn to when the banks and the Credit Union wouldn’t help us. We had no money to adapt the house for Kate’s needs. I worried daily about the house.”

The family were then handed a life-line.

Kate Flynn, aged four, was born with serious respiratory complications, leaving her unable to breathe on her own and dependent on a ventilator. She spent the first two years of her life in hospital.

The little girl thrived and grew stronger when she came home to join her brothers, Adam, aged nine, and Alex, aged six, this time two years ago, just before Christmas 2015. But space was limited.

“Her bedroom was essentially a store-room on the ground floor,” says Lisa. “All Kate’s medical equipment and supplies had to be stored there. It was difficult to move around the cot.”

Baby Kate was hemmed in, away from her brothers who adore her.

“The room has no window or access to light or fresh air,” says Lisa, describing the ground floor room.

Kate Flynn, Cobh all excited about Christmas, with her brothers Adam (9yo) and Alex (6yo) and parents Lisa and Mark in their newly adapted/renovated family home in Cobh, recently completed by Sigma Homes.Pic; Larry Cummins
Kate Flynn, Cobh all excited about Christmas, with her brothers Adam (9yo) and Alex (6yo) and parents Lisa and Mark in their newly adapted/renovated family home in Cobh, recently completed by Sigma Homes.Pic; Larry Cummins

“Kate was still in a cot aged four, and I was still bathing her in a baby bath on the kitchen table,” she adds.

“The room was really cramped. Our bathroom and shower is on the third floor.”

But Kate and her family were handed a lifeline by Sigma Homes, based in Douglas, who stepped in to help renovate their residence to suit Kate’s needs and make her part of the family.

Project Manager, David Holmes, heard Lisa speak about Kate’s living conditions and her needs for the future on the Red FM Neil Prendeville show. He thought his company could help the family out.

“Owner Patrick O’Brien and the architect, Patrick Robinson, saw the potential for the house. They took over everything from the planning permission to the renovations,” says Lisa.

“When we saw the plans we were blown away. Sigma Homes had the vision. The original quote for the work was €140,000. They took off €60,000. A massive fund-raising drive raised a massive €80,000 ”

The company did even more.

“Sigma provided all the appliances and all the furniture,” says Lisa. “They put in solar panels and a new boiler system. They said; pick what you like, but we’ll be getting it.”

Everyone got on board to make the dream house happen.

“The rest of the money required for the new build was raised by the generosity of the community. We are so grateful for the immense support of the people of Cork and County Cork,” says Lisa.

“They are the kindest people. There was an instant knee-jerk reaction from the public to support us.”

Santa was among hundreds of well-wishers who turned out to welcome the Flynns to their new home last month. Their Christmases came all at once.

“The whole community turned out to welcome us to our new home when we got the keys on November 23. It is a dream come true,” says Lisa.

“We can’t thank Patrick O’Brien of Sigma Homes enough, and the whole community who rallied round to make our dream a reality,” she says.

“Now Kate is part of the family. She’s not cut off any more from her brothers Adam and Alex. We were so split up before. Now, she isn’t limited. Kate has full access to all areas,” says Lisa.

The family unit is bonded.

“Everyone is closer together. When Kate was on the ground floor and the boys were up on the third floor, I couldn’t leave Kate if one of them was sick. I wasn’t able to go up. It used to break my heart. Now the boys’ bedroom is right next to Kate’s bedroom.”

It’ll make life easier for Santa too.

Kate smiles. “It sure will,” she says.

Lisa is excited about Kate’s new Princess bedroom, complete with en suite wet room.

“Kate can see everything that is going on from her new bedroom through her large glazed window. Her future needs will be met if she needs to use a wheelchair or a hoist.”

The Flynns relish their new home from every angle.

“Now Kate is part of the household in every way,” says Lisa. “She was separate from us before. She was cut off from her brothers. Their bedroom is much bigger now. They have more scope and they can enjoy a play date. The children have plenty of space to play.

Kate Flynn.Pic; Larry Cummins
Kate Flynn.Pic; Larry Cummins

“Kate’s room has level access to the street. We can pull in the car into the back doors of her bedroom and wheel her into her bedroom. In the summer, we can wheel her bed out to the garden.”

Best of all, Kate can wave out of the internal window to her Mammy while she is making dinner. She can sit up in her bed, watch the boys play, and she can join in the fun.

“She waves out at them and blows kisses,” says Lisa.

“Even when she is resting, Kate can look out her window and see what the boys are up to,” she adds.

“She can see out to the garden and see the trees blowing in the wind.

“In the other cramped room, she had no access to a window. Kate didn’t know if it was night or day.

Life is easier now.

“Before, I used to pull out drawers in the old kitchen to lay out the dinner. Now, just look at the kitchen space I have to work in,” says Lisa, marvelling at her modern kitchen.

“We can eat together around the table. We have all this space that we can now access. The light is amazing. We are so grateful to Patrick O’Brien and his colleagues who thought outside the box to renovate this tall thin house,” adds Lisa, who said this time last year, when she spoke on Red FM, she felt like she was failing her family.

“I spoke about our plight in struggling to get a loan to meet Kate’s future needs and being turned down time after time. I felt like I was failing my family.”

Kate’s dad, Mark, didn’t fail to make another family’s dream come true, at Christmas last year. The Costellos were disappointed when the Santa Experience in Dunnes Stores, Patrick Street, was closed for the day.

Santa had departed to the North to fill in the orders for deliveries for all the boys and girls he had met.

“I’m a security manager at Dunnes, Patrick Street,” says Mark.” “I knew how disappointed the Costello’s were when Santa had left for the North Pole. The store manager, Declan Flanagan, and myself, decided to open Santa’s Grotto for the Costello children. We knew where the lights were. Even though I couldn’t fit into Santa’s costume, I put on his elf’s hat and gave the children a little tour. They didn’t see Santa, but they did see Santa’s room and his bed. They saw his sleigh and the stables. They were so happy.” Valerie Costelloe was so happy with Marks’ good deed, that she told the nation on Red FM how Mark saved the day.

“Then things just snowballed,” says Mark. “When people realised we were the Cobh family fundraising to make up the deficit for the build, everyone rowed in behind us. It was fantastic. Within a week our gofundme page had €30,000. The generosity of the people made €50,000. With help from subcontractors and suppliers, massive savings were made.” The Flynns feel blessed.

“The quality of Kate’s life will be improved for the better,” says Lisa. “We had lost all hope. We had knocked on every door. There was nobody answering.” This year, things will be different.

“We can all sit around the dinner table together,” says Lisa.

“When you have a child with complex medical needs, you appreciate the little things. Being together in our home for Christmas is just wonderful.”

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