A paralysed Derry woman has been forced to sleep in the kitchen of her Brandywell home after the ceiling in her specially adapted extension fell through on Christmas Eve.
Celine Jarvis, who was paralysed when she was shot in 1972, said she thought she was going to die when water started pouring from the ceiling of her Bluebell Hill Gardens home and huge chunks of plaster began falling to the ground.
“My sisters had to come in and pull me from the bed and get me out. My niece’s boyfriend Aidan McIvor had to hold the plaster up so that they could get me out of the room.
“It was like an earthquake - water was falling, and bits of plaster were hitting me. I couldn’t move - I have no movement at all from the neck down apart from in one arm.”
Celine has been forced to live in the dinette in the family kitchen while she waits for the Housing Executive to carry out repairs to her living space - which are believed to have been caused by burst pipes during the recent freezing weather.
“That room was my life - it was my space. I don’t leave the house. I can’t get around but now I’m here, in the kitchen with no privacy or dignity at all.”
Her specially-adapted bathroom has also be rendered unusable, meaning that she has to rely on her family to help her with her personal needs. She says the whole experience has left her feeling “utterly humiliated”.
Celine shares the house with her two sisters and her elderly mother, who is just recovering from a stroke. The water supply to the family bathroom has been cut off for days - and the family have been unable to put the heating on.
“We were given two electric heaters from Operation Snowball, but I’ve given those to my mother as she needs to keep warm. I’m relying on the heat from the tumble drier to keep the kitchen warm.
“We are all living on our nerves - and the emotional impact has been enormous. My life is now based in this room - in this wee space - with nothing of my own around me. My family have to try and come in and cook around me, clean around me.
“I can’t sleep - I’m utterly exhausted - but I can’t relax. I’ve even said I would go back into my room, even with no ceiling and no heat, just to have my own space.”
The family say they first contacted the Housing Executive about the damage to the house on Boxing Day but feel they have been ignored.
“We’ve been on every day, several times a day, and no one seems to care,” Celine’s aunt Sadie Rogers said. “We know that many people have had their homes damaged but surely given Celine’s circumstances her case should have been a made a priority. This is no way to live - not these days. When I think about it, I just feel sick to my stomach.”
As yesterday was a Bank Holiday no-one at the Housing Executive was available for comment.