Guardsman Dave Watson, aged 25, from the 1st Battalion Scots Guards, is delighted at how his new property has turned out, all of it with the help of a range of military support services.
The £100,000 building programme to convert his new bungalow in his home town of Preston, Lancashire, into a property more suited to his needs began in January and Guardsman Watson has been closely involved throughout:
The three-bedroom bungalow was the biggest in the area with a bit of land attached which meant I could do whatever I wanted with it,” he said.
“So I had an extension, a wet room, I’ve had a few doors widened so I can use the wheelchair, and the back of the house has been opened out into a kitchen and dining area. I’ve also put on a conservatory and still have lots of land, so I’m planning a patio, some landscaping and carp pond - I’m really into my fishing.”
Parts of the project essential to Guardsman Watson’s needs were funded by the Ministry of Defence against the Net Additional Cost of Military Operations. Features that were desirable but not clinically necessary, such as the conservatory, were funded privately.
All adaptations undertaken under the MOD-funded programme are driven by need. It begins with an occupational therapist’s assessment and is followed by site meetings with the injured Service person involved, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation and the local Reserve Forces and Cadets Association who then turn the recommendations into a design proposal.
Guardsman Watson said:
It will change the way I live. In my old terraced house there was no room for me to walk around; I had to shuffle around and use a stair-lift. Now I’m in here I will be walking around every day. It’s important to me because it will get me onto my [artificial] legs more often.
It was May 2010 when Guardsman Watson almost lost his life. He was toward the rear of a foot patrol and turned to assist the soldier behind, who had slipped. He explained:
As I went to help him I stepped on something and it blew. The lads dragged me out. There was no pain because of the adrenaline.
“It has been hard adapting to life, but I have had to do it. The staff at Headley Court teach you how to do everything; if they had not been there it would have been much harder.
It will be brilliant to have my own place. Back at my old house I would go out with my mates and I would come in late and have to wake up my mum and dad to open the door. Here I can come and go whenever I please, it will make me more independent.
Steve May, Capital Works Requirements Manager at the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, said:
The solutions we provide are determined partly by the existing building, but each project is different because each individual could have different needs. The finished solution in Dave’s case was excellent, but, we hope, of the standard we try to achieve for all these adaptations.