“We couldn’t believe it” : Former solider paralysed in Afghanistan is victim of ‘cowboy builders’

October 19, 2016 | by | 0 Comments

A former soldier paralysed from the waist down in a roadside blast in Afghanistan was left devastated after his adapted home was ruined – by ‘cowboy builders’.

Royal Engineer Ben Zissman, 27, was travelling in an armoured vehicle which was hit by a 360lb bomb in 2010.

He woke up six weeks later with a broken ankle, four smashed ribs, a fractured pelvis and an injured spinal cord, and battled to get his life back on track with his childhood sweetheart and now-wife Ciara, 27.

Paralysed soldier Ben Zissman at his home which was ruined by 'cowboy builders'

Paralysed soldier Ben Zissman at his home which was ruined by ‘cowboy builders’

The pair saved up and bought their dream £350,000 home, which was specially adapted with ramps, rails and adapted bathrooms thanks to Government grants.

But a few years after the work was completed suspicious damp patches appeared on the walls of their three-bed bungalow.

The couple were devastated to discover that the workmen – who have apparently since ceased to trade – had failed to properly install the pipes to the wet room, they said.

Ben Zissman with his wife Ciara

Ben Zissman with his wife Ciara

Slow-leaking pipes were gradually destroying the house and throughout the property, damp and mould had ruined the underfloor beams.

Ben, who relies on a wheelchair, faced eight weeks away from his wife as well as his home while their house was repaired.

However Ben and Ciara received financial support from Help for Heroes allowing them to stay in a nearby adapted holiday cottage while the remedial work was done.

Ben Zissman's house after the flooring was removed to investigate a mould patch

Ben Zissman’s house after the flooring was removed to investigate a mould patch

Brave Ben, from Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, said: “Moving into my own house felt like a huge step forward for me, and the prospect of not having that felt like taking a massive step back.

“I had grown to really feel comfortable there – knowing where a rail was or how to get from one place to another.

“That was a lot more important to me than it might be for another person, so it was really daunting to hear that I’d have to move out.

“We couldn’t believe it when we realised what had happened.

“It was a case of the guys that did it just not knowing what they were doing properly. It was really upsetting to see the state they had left the house in. ”

The mould patch at Ben's house

The mould patch at Ben’s house

Ben was a member of the TA and serving with 21 Royal Engineers Royal Monmouthshire in South Helmand in 2010 when an IED charge hit his vehicle.

The next thing he remembers is waking up in hospital six weeks later with Ciara, at his bedside.

After Ben had gone through years of treatment at Headley Court, the couple were able to buy their dream bungalow in 2011 and moved in the next year.

As part of thousands of pounds of vital adaptations, they had ramps and rails installed to help Ben get around, as well as having the ensuite extended into a wet room.

“It was really nice when they first did it, but clearly things weren’t done right,” said Ben, who has won bravery awards since being wounded.

But a few years later a damp patch appeared on the spare bedroom adjoining the wet room, and investigations revealed faulty pipes had ruined the floor.

Ben Zissman's wet room under repair

Ben Zissman’s wet room under repair

Ben said: “All the floors were completely ruined. It was down to poor workmanship basically – it was an incorrectly installed piped that had leaked everywhere.

“When they ripped up the floor it was completely sodden.

The pair were told they would have to move out while workmen dried out and ripped up the floors of their home.

They faced eight weeks apart and a frantic search for suitable accommodation until Help for Heroes stepped in.

The Charity funded the majority of their £4,000 stay in a fully accessible and adapted holiday cottage near to their home.

“Due to my needs, and having a dog, and needing to be near my wife’s work, we couldn’t just live anywhere,” said Ben.

“Going back to a care setting would have been a big mental battle.

“After everything we had achieved it was bad enough that the house had been ruined. Help for Heroes helped me keep my independence.”swns_soldier_house_022The pair are now back home and keen hand-cyclist Ben is continuing to pursue his dream of becoming a Paralympic cyclist.

Claire Barnes, Head of Grants at Help for Heroes, said: “Ben and Ciara were facing two months of separation during what was already an incredibly stressful time for them.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Great British public, Help for Heroes was able to help them stay together, close to home, while repairs were done to their house.

“It’s vital that we’re able to support our wounded whenever they might need it and we’re delighted that Ben and Ciara are now back in their home.”

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