Volunteer tradespeople set to help dad-of-two left brain damaged finally return home after two years

Volunteer tradespeople from across the UK are set to help a dad-of-two who was left with severe brain damage after suffering heart failure at home during the Covid pandemic, finally move back into his Oswaldtwistle home after nearly two years.

Howard Holden suffered unexplained heart failure in his sleep in April 2020. Despite wife Sam and his young daughters Daisy and Tilly performing chest compressions until paramedics arrived, Howard was left with severe brain damage due to lack of oxygen to his brain.

The 55-year-old, who was put in a medically-induced coma for two weeks, has since had to relearn everything, from walking and talking to eating, at a residential brain injury unit in Leeds, more than 60 miles from his home.

Now his family’s two-year “nightmare” is hopefully nearing an end when Band of Builders – a registered charity that completes practical projects to help members of the UK construction industry battling illness or injury – undertakes a three-week project to build of an extension at the former building surveyor’s home. The project – which is sponsored by Knauf UK and Ireland, leaders in lightweight construction materials including drywall, are constantly evolving to meet new challenges while never losing sight of their ultimate goal: to Build for the world we live in – will create a new downstairs bedroom and wet room – one of the steps that will hopefully help Howard return home permanently.

The 55-year-old is currently undergoing a staged return home and is at the point of being able to visit and even stay for weekends, but his wife Sam and daughters Daisy and Tilly, 14 and 12, are hoping this will become permanent at some stage in the near future.

Sam said: “Ever since that day in April 2020, it’s been a nightmare. From coming so close to losing Howard, to having to watch him relearn everything, it’s been a difficult road for all of us. Covid restrictions combined with the distance have made it difficult for us to see Howard and we have had to rely on Skype or Zoom when really we just wanted to be together. There have been so many ups and downs along the way as time has gone on and at times we thought he would never get to where he is now.

“We are at the stage where he is well enough to visit home and even stay for weekends as part of a staged return for Howard. He still has some way to go, and there are various factors that will contribute to him being able to move home permanently – including the adaptations to the house and garden. We’re just so grateful to this amazing charity and all the wonderful people volunteering their time and efforts to help make life easier for Howard for when he is well enough to come home and for making it a safe environment for him to return to.”

The project, which is due to start on Tuesday 22 February and conclude on Sunday 6 March, will be carried out by volunteer tradespeople using materials donated by the construction sector. As well as the creation of an extension, they will install a new fence around the garden to ensure it is a safe and enjoyable space for Howard and his needs. More than 40 volunteer builders from across the UK will answer the call to help transform Howard’s home.

Howard has worked in the building trade for most of his working life, including 14 years as a plasterer before he retrained as a Building Surveyor at the age of 50. His current condition means he now suffers from severe fatigue, mobility issues and other brain-injury symptoms such as confusion and short-term memory loss.

Billy Thomasson, volunteer project lead for the project to help Howard, said: “Howard and his family have been through something no family should have to go through, and it’s safe to say every single one of us wants to do what we can to get him back where he belongs.

“The work we’re carrying out will create a safe environment for Howard to come back to, and allow him to enjoy his garden safely with his family. We’ve had applications from volunteers pouring in but we always need more, so if anyone wants to help in any way, from getting involved with the work to helping with accommodation for our volunteers or feeding and watering them, it’s all greatly appreciated and helps us do what we do.”

Knauf UK and Ireland’s National Accounts Director, Samantha Hanks, said: “It’s a pleasure to work with Band of Builders, a fantastic charity providing vital support for trade people within our industry, with the goal of improving people’s lives. When we read Howard’s story, we wanted to support the former plasterer and his family. We are excited to begin helping convert Howard’s family home into a safe environment for him to return too, so the family can be all back together under one roof.”

This will be the 22nd project to date for Band of Builders, which has more than 10,000 supporters from across the construction industry and is backed by major names within the construction industry, including DEWALT, JewsonTarmac, Gibbs & DandyV12 FootwearTalaseyResideo and Haemmerlin.

For more information or to offer support of any kind, please email info@bandofbuilders.org.