Caroline Blanchard was forced to make an unimaginably heart-wrenching decision – and then she had to do it for a second time.
The single mum, from Scunthorpe, had to turn off life support for two of the people she loves most in the world after two separate tragedies within a few years of each other.
Then she had to carry on living in the shadow of her grief in the same house where her seven year-old daughter and husband had suffered.
Caroline, who lives with her two children Reece and Paige, was unable to enter two rooms in her house because of the painful memories they triggered.
The nightmare started in 2007 when Caroline experienced the worst pain any parent could possibly imagine in traumatic circumstances.
Natasha was just seven-years-old when she banged her head in a tragic accident in the garage.
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Natasha was playing on a mini motorbike and accidentally banged her head on a cupboard while dad Paul went inside to fetch a helmet.
The little girl seemed to be fine at first, telling dad Paul: “It’s OK, Daddy.”
Heartbreakingly, her condition quickly deteriorated and she was rushed to hospital.
“I just remember the surgeon coming in and telling me she was bleeding that badly she couldn’t stop it,” explains tearful Caroline on tonight’s DIY SOS.
Doctors delivered the devastating news to Caroline and Paul – explaining that Natasha needed to be taken off a life-support machine.
Sadly, she passed away in hospital two days after the accident and heatbreakingly dad Paul was burdened with guilt.
The motorbike fan decided to crush every single bike that he owned and would sit in the garage for hours trying to come to terms with what happened.
In September 2012, Caroline gave birth to daughter Paige Hope, whose name was chosen by their son Reece because it was a ‘new chapter in their lives’.
The couple struggled to deal with their loss – with Caroline explaining that her husband, who adored his children, lost the “sparkle” from his eye.
Paul suffered from ill health and went to hospital 22 times, but wach time h was told by doctors that his pains were caused by anxiety.
In 2016, just a few days after he complained of chest pains, tragedy struck again when Paul suffered a cardiac arrest at home in front of his wife and daughter.
Caroline said: “He would suffer with chest pains and palpitations, they kept saying it was stress and anxiety from the loss of Natasha.
“We were just sat in the conservatory and he just made this horrendous noise. I looked at him and said “Paul are you alright?” and he stood up but he had his arms in the chair, he took the whole chair with him, and just fell clean to the floor and started convulsing.”
Paul was kept on a life support machine for 10 days, then Caroline went through hell once again when she was forced to switch it off.
After both the death of her daughter and husband, Caroline decided to donate their organs to help others in need.
Paul did not have life insurance, so single mum Caroline had to keep working to support her family, which was made extremely difficult because of her panic attacks.
Caroline and her kids had to live with a constant reminder of their grief – the garage and the conservatory where the two cruel tragedies occurred.
But she explained they didn’t want to move away because there were also a lot of good memories in their home.
In a heartbreaking chat with presenter Nick Knowles, Reece says: “I just wish I could see my dad again. That would be amazing if I could.”
Help was on hand as the DIY SOS team, award-winning garden designer Arit Anderson and a band of volunteers descended on Scunthorpe.
They want to give the Blanchards a chance to move forward while still remembering their loved ones, so decide to demolish the garage and conservatory.
Before the renovation, a friend close to the project told Grimsby Live : “Caroline, Reece and Paige are grieving and trying to re-build their lives without their father, husband and sister.
“But there are two huge obstacles to their mental health; the daily visual reminders of the garage and the conservatory, where their two loved ones died.
“Caroline and Reece are going through grief counselling but back at home they’re constantly re-living the traumas, as the garage is a monument in the middle of the back garden to Natasha’s death and is where Paul lost himself to his grief.
“He would sit in there for hours trying to come to terms with what happened. The conservatory has never been used since that traumatic day, the doors are kept shut.
“Reece has lost his Dad – it’s been tough. He’s talking to his friends, to help release his anger, hurt and loss. Both Caroline and Reece don’t want to leave their home and turn their back on the good memories. It’s close to family support and the kid’s schools but Caroline has reached an emotional impasse.”
Back in April 2020, the team gave themselves just five days to redesign the house to give Caroline, Reece and Paige a fresh start.
The motivation behind the intense build even left veteran members of the DIY SOS team in tears.
“Today a community come together to help a family in desperate need,” says Nick on the show.
“It’s a story of loss, of crippling grief and of a community who battle the elements to support a devastated family.
“It’s going to be an emotional journey for us all. But by wiping away the painful memories we’re building to give a grieving family the chance to start to move forward.”
More than 300 volunteers arrived to help complete the project and almost all of the building materials were donated by local tradespeople and suppliers.
“To see so many incredible volunteers come out and support a local family is truly heart-warming, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank every last one of them,” said Paolo Proto, Executive Producer for DIY SOS: The Big Build
“The community of volunteers and trades has changed the lives of Caroline and her family and left a legacy that will continue long after the TV programme is forgotten. It’s amazing what can be done when people help each other.”
The build would have cost more than £75,000 without the generosity of the volunteers – and viewers will get to see the Blanchard family’s reaction on tonight’s show.
Addressing everyone who had taken part, Nick said: “We weren’t sure ourselves whether we could do this as a five-day build. But it’s pretty amazing what you’ve achieved. Remember that you’ve made the change, not us.”
Nick has even found out how the family have been getting on since the big build was completed.
When asked by Nick on Twitter how they were enjoying their renovated home, Caroline tweeted back: “It’s amazing, absolutely love every inch of the whole place, so overwhelming what everyone has done for us, able to come downstairs and enjoy a coffee in the sunshine is priceless.”
*DIY SOS: The Big Build airs tonight on BBC One at 8pm
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