A former postman struck down by motor neurone disease has been helped to stay in his home, thanks to his MP and Flintshire building firm Rubicon.
Ray Gudger from Mancot has extremely limited movement due to the debilitating disease that attacks his muscles – the same as the one that affects Professor Stephen Hawking – and uses a ventilator every night to keep him breathing.
His wife Josie could no longer safely get the 68-year-old upstairs at their family home, a three-bed semi owned by Flintshire Council.
Instead the couple faced having to turn the lounge into his bedroom – leaving just the small kitchen free as living space – or moving to another property on the far side of the county.
After turning to Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami for help, Ray and Josie were able to use a Welsh Assembly grant to have an extension built by Rubicon Garden Rooms, based on Deeside.
More often used for home offices, sun rooms, music studios and teenage dens, Rubicon’s zero-maintenance modular buildings are manufactured at its factory in Queensferry and quickly installed.
They are made from a wood fibre composite material devised by founder John Lyon, who was inspired by his 20 years as an engineer at Airbus.
Josie said: “Rubicon’s extension been fantastic, and it has really changed Ray’s life. It’s very warm as it’s fully insulated, light and comfortable – it is easy to alter.
“We can get Ray in and out of bed and into his wheelchair much more easily, and it means that he has somewhere to go that’s his, for some quiet time.
“He loves sitting by the big window watching the birds and wildlife, or enjoying the views of the garden. It’s meant that we didn’t have to move – I have lived in Mancot all my life, and couldn’t face moving away from family and friends, who have been so supportive.”
Rubicon managing director John Lyon was delighted to be able to help Ray and Josie have the temporary extension fitted to their home.
“The building is factory built and made into pre-fabricated pieces, so they slot together very easily and quickly. Also, as it is classed as a temporary construction that can be taken away, it often doesn’t need planning permission and so is popular with people who need extra space very quickly at an economic price.
“We are more used to installing our buildings in people’s gardens as an annexe for an older family member, or to create a bespoke home office, music or art studio or a den for teenagers.
“I previously spent over 20 years working in various roles at Airbus Broughton and later ran my own aircraft parts company for 17 years. The composite material used in plane manufacture gave me ideas as to how this technology could be applied to another industry to offer modular buildings which did not require annual maintenance or the use of paint brushes and stain.
“Following 2 years of development, we launched our range of zero-maintenance buildings in 2013 and we have now developed products to suit most budgets with modern, double-glazed windows and full insulation.
“In 2015 we won the Flintshire Business Award and were runners-up in the Achievement Wales Awards, for Best Business.”
Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami said: “People don’t always realise that they can extend their home when a situation like this happens. However, my team is aware of what grants are available, and so we were able to advise Ray and Josie of the way forward.
“Obviously, it was much better for them to stay in Mancot, with their support network around them, rather than move miles away.
“I am also delighted that Rubicon, as a local company, has been able to provide the extension that Ray and Josie needed, with the minimum of disruption. The room looks lovely and warm, and I can see that it has made a big change to Ray’s quality of life.”
Josie met Ray 20 years ago through his job as a postie in Mancot – they got chatting when he delivered the mail to her home, and eventually he moved in. However, soon after Ray retired at 65, he discovered was unable to lift his foot up, and his GP sent him off to see a specialist at Walton Hospital.
“We had been looking forward to a happy and long retirement together – Ray was very active, he went sailing, walked our collies, and was generally always doing something. He used to walk miles as a postman every day and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t lift his foot,” said Josie.
“It was devastating when the specialist said it was motor neurone disease, which affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Within a short time Ray was using two sticks to talk with, then crutches, and then a motor scooter.
“He was finally unable to hold his head up, so now he has an electric wheelchair with back support. It’s a progressive disease so he is getting worse, which is why he needs a ventilator at night to keep him breathing. There is no cure, it’s a case of managing the situation.
“I have to do everything for him though my brother Derek, who lives with us, also helps out,” added Josie, who finally got married to Ray two years ago.
“We have a hoist to get Ray out of bed, then I shower him and transfer him to the chair. Initially we had a stairlift to get up to the bedroom but it was getting dangerous, trying to manoeuvre him from the lift into his slider upstairs – I was always worried that we would topple down the stairs and both be seriously injured.
“We went to Mark Tami for advice, and he helped us get a wet room installed downstairs, which made it much easier for washing him. Then we asked for help in getting an extension for a bedroom for Ray, as we didn’t want to move – I have lived in this house for 29 years now.
“Also, my son John works at Airbus and lives in Connah’s Quay, so he’s always only a few minutes away, if something happens.”
“Mark discovered there was an Assembly grant available and Flintshire Council decided to go with Rubicon, as the other company wanted to use a crane to lift in a building, which would have been so complicated.
“The extension is very well made and went up quickly, and has changed our life. It means Ray has somewhere to sit, and we haven’t lost our lounge. When our three grandchildren come round, they love to go into his room and see him.
“I can’t thank Mark enough for the help he and his team have given us, they have been brilliant.”
Councillor Helen Brown, Flintshire County Council Cabinet Member for Housing said: “The council strives to be a high quality landlord, seeking to meet the needs and expectations of all its customers. As part of this commitment we continue to seek creative and cost effective ways to provide for our disabled customers.
“One of our tenants required access to ground floor facilities, including a bedroom and bathroom. This need was urgent, so instead of a traditional build, which would be highly disruptive to the tenant, we approached Rubicon Garden Rooms based in Flintshire who provided a high quality garden room attached to the property, which has the potential to be reused elsewhere in the future.
“We were delighted that Rubicon were able to quickly provide this essential modification to the property that met the council’s rigorous standards for such work.”
Rubicon Garden Rooms has more than 10 years of experience in the building industry, and specialises in the manufacture and installation of garden buildings to create home offices, annexes for older relatives and teenagers, music studios, and leisure buildings.
Fully insulated, its hi-tech wood fibre composites simulate wood, whilst other products simulate stone and slate in order to enhance comfort, zero-maintenance and aesthetic appeal. More details at rubicongardenrooms.co.uk or call 01244 552813