A former Royal Marine, Jason Burns, who sustained life-changing injuries in Afghanistan that left him in a wheelchair, has finally been able to move into a forever home in South Shields thanks to the combined support of RMA – The Royal Marines Charity, South Tyneside Homes and Durham-based architect, Howarth Litchfield.
Jason, who was a Warrant Officer Class 2 with 30 Commando Royal Marines, was injured during a mortar attack at Lashkar Gah in Afghanistan in 2010, which severely damaged his L3/L4/L5 vertebrae.
His injuries, which are inoperable, are causing him increasing pain, and he suffers from PTSD because of the trauma he experienced.
After moving north from Plymouth, by 2014 a council house was sourced for him in South Shields by the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association – the armed forces charity, but it required substantial renovation, adaptation and specialist equipment.
RMA has been working with Jason and his family since that time and has undertaken three projects to support him and his family – the initial and partial renovation of his house, creation of an accessible garden in 2015 and the funding of a specially adapted, motorised wheelchair in 2017.
As Jonathan Ball, RMA’s chief executive, explains, this time, it is a full conversion that has been carried out. He said:
“I have been very pleased to work on this project for the Burns family with South Tyneside Homes (the landlord), T Manners and Co (the contractors) and Howarth Litchfield (the architects), particularly in this very challenging lockdown period. All have understood that this work will be life-changing for Jason, who was becoming a prisoner upstairs at home, and have collaborated to ensure a fantastic transformation. Living permanently downstairs will enable him to interact fully with his family and begin to get out into his local community.
“Though the impact of his injuries will continue to worsen with time, Jason’s quality of life will be enhanced considerably, which will be wonderful for his mental well-being along with that of his wife Andrea and their three children. I am immensely grateful for the generosity of donors to RMA who have enabled the trustees to fund this project, and our partner charities, the Naval Children’s Charity, Greenwich Hospital, the Royal Naval Benevolent Trust and Help for Heroes who funded the extra costs of this project when it became clear that they would cost more than the £100,000 originally pledged by my trustees.’
Jason and his family have been living in temporary accommodation for a few months while the latest building work was completed, but he and his family have now been given the keys to their newly refurbished home and can look forward to living in a specially adapted environment, designed specifically with Jason’s quality of life in mind.
Howarth Litchfield director, Neil Turner, applauding the work of the RMA, was delighted the practice was able to help when approached by the charity. He said: “The RMA wanted to be able to create an accessible and open plan ground floor arrangement so that Jason could more easily navigate his way around in his wheelchair. We have been mindful of creating a design layout that will not date over time and will provide suitable surroundings for Jason and his family to have the most comfortable home possible with a specially designed kitchen and bathroom. I hope they will be very happy here.
The family is delighted with their new home. Jason said: “I want to say thanks to the Royal Marines Charity, Howarth Litchfield and T Manners & Sons for making what was a home full of love a home full of love and life. Not only can I fully function in the house now, but it will also have an extreme effect on my family and that is priceless. It really has surpassed all of our expectations.”
Wife Andrea added: “It really allows Jason to be part of the family again, we can’t wait to have family gatherings.”
T Manners & Sons, building contractors, of Bishop Auckland were appointed to the contract after submitting a competitive tender.