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Dobbin family's gratitude to an army of strangers who helped change their lives with DIY SOS rebuild




Simon, Nicole and Emily Dobbin (6645418)
Simon, Nicole and Emily Dobbin (6645418)

Theirs is a story which has come to represent the very worst in society and yet the very best and on Thursday the nation looked on as a family, who had been torn apart by a random act of brutality, were given the opportunity to celebrate a new lease of life by hundreds of people they barely knew.

Three years ago life for Simon Dobbin, as he had known it, ended on the pavement outside a Southend pub when, following a football match, he was attacked by a gang of thugs.

Such was the savagery of the 90 second beating the loving husband and father from Mildenhall received he sustained such serious brain damage he was not expected to survive.

He was left unable to walk or talk. The man everyone had known and loved had disappeared, a prisoner inside his own body who would be totally dependant on others for the rest of his life.

Simon Dobbin's family and friends gathered on Thrusday to watch the DIY SOS programme which saw their home transformed. (6647340)
Simon Dobbin's family and friends gathered on Thrusday to watch the DIY SOS programme which saw their home transformed. (6647340)

After two years in hospital, and against all the odds, Simon's devoted wife Nicole and their daughter, Emily, now 20, brought him home to Peterhouse Close in Mildenhall, determined they would care for his every need.

But the house in which they had all been so happy, had not been designed to cope with such a castastrophe. The future looked bleak, that is until the family's prayers were answered and theBBC's DIY SOStook on the challenge of transforming it.

That was back in 2017 and on Thursday there was a chance to see just how the team and the hundreds of people who volunteered to help changed the family's life as the show was televised.

TV show DIY SOS is renovating Simon Dobbin’s Mildenhall home to make it suitable for his needs after he was left with permanent brain damage following an attack. Picture: GREGG BROWN (6645412)
TV show DIY SOS is renovating Simon Dobbin’s Mildenhall home to make it suitable for his needs after he was left with permanent brain damage following an attack. Picture: GREGG BROWN (6645412)

Watching were Nicole and Emily who were joined by neighbours and family friends including Willie East and Rob Williams who had both contributed to the programme.Willie had been with Simon on that fateful day in Southend and had also been attacked. His voice choking with emotion he told how Simon had had to resuscitated at the scene. "I just keep thinking what am I going to tell his wife," he said.

"I don't think about the people who did it. I just miss my friend," said Rob

For Nicole, for whom Thursday was the 21st anniversary of her marriage to Simon, it was a reminder of how the generosity and good will of so many had transformed the house which had been crushing the family's spirit and helped restore their faith in humanity.

"It's amazing to watch it back now and see everything that went on," said Nicole, "looking back at what the house used to be like, I can't believe they did all that in the time they did it."

It took nine days and 10,000 hours of work and presented a skip load of problems for those involved not least that they had to work within the original footprint of the house. There was no room for a convenient extension and everything had to be designed to accommodate Simon's larger than usual wheelchair the size of which was deftly demonstrated by show presenter, Mildenhall old boy, Nick Knowles, using a measured wooden frame he wore a bit like a crinoline.

As a result there did have to be some tweaking as the builders carefully reconstructed the interior of the completely gutted property. "Every millimetre counts," Knowles warned as designer Laurence Llewellyn Bowen feared for some of his made-to-measure touches.

Simon's new bedroom (6645420)
Simon's new bedroom (6645420)

Top of Nicole's wish list had been a space which would provide Simon,who until then had to be cared for in the living room with some privacy and dignity in the shape of his own bedroom and wet room.

And when the refurbishment was complete, and revealed, the most stunning improvement was Simon's new space complete with a state-of-the-art programmable bed which would automatically turn him, and a hoist to enable Nicole to move him into the wet room where at last, he would be able to shower.

Also included CCTV to enable Nicole to be able monitor her husband from her newly refurbished bedroom upstairs set up with direct communication links to her husband's room.

Simon Dobbin: new kitche dimer(6645416)
Simon Dobbin: new kitche dimer(6645416)

Not forgotten was the couple's daughter Emily. "She has been my rock," said Nicole, "because I crumbled in the beginning." The love and respect shared by mother and daughter was obvious, and the young woman, whose love for the father with whom she had shared so many good times has never waivered, is a credit to both her parents. Emily's admiration for her mother's unswerving dedication to her dad shone through in the hour-long programme and her completely refurbished room was just reward for the girl who simply wanted thefuture to be 'something worth living for dad.'

Outside the garden had also been completely redesigned as a practical and elegant space accessible for Simon's wheelchair and with a shelter. "He will love it," said Nicole. "He loves being outside."

New garden space at Simon Dobbins (6645414)
New garden space at Simon Dobbins (6645414)

Simon wasn't able to be at the house when it was completed as he had had to be hospitalised suffering with pneumonia and it was two monthsbefore he did finally come home so it fell to Nicole and Emily to thank the volunteers, 900 more of whom applied to help with the project than were actually needed, which they did eloquently from their doorstep.

"I want to than each and every one of you Without you none of this would have been possible" said Nicole.

The final word was left to Knowles: "Let's not dwell on the bad, let's celebrate the good because here is lots of it."