The house fit for a ‘polka dot’ princess

Matilda with Paul and Rebecca Callaghan
Matilda with Paul and Rebecca Callaghan

A couple who spent their life savings transforming their home for their disabled daughter say the project was worth every penny.

Paul and Rebecca Callaghan have made dramatic changes to their three-bedroom property in Leigh to help six-year-old Matilda, who suffers from a rare neurological and skin disorder.

Matilda on her home lift

Matilda on her home lift

The condition - Sturge-Weber syndrome - affects around 14 children in the UK and almost killed her when she was born and left her with a large birth mark on her face.

The subsequent laser treatment she must endure has left her with ‘polka dot’ marks all over her face. The treatment attempts to burn the blood capillaries under her skin to prevent the mark from growing and becoming deformed.

She was also born with two holes in her heart and with the tube from her throat to her stomach missing, requiring her to undergo more than 30 operations during her life.

The Callaghan’s have spent thousands on extending the upstairs of their home and putting in a large bedroom and sensory room – a special room designed to develop Matilda’s sense through special lighting, objects and music – and a wet room.

They have also built a completely new kitchen which has been designed around the focal point of the room – Matilda’s unique home lift, manufactured by UK-based company Stiltz Lifts.

The Callaghan’s wanted to make their home as “accessible as possible” for Matilda but did not want to turn it into a house with ‘stereotypical disabled products’.

Part of the renovations includes a Stiltz Trio Home Lift for Matilda’s wheelchair.

Dad Paul, 50, said: “We wanted to make the house as accessible and normal as possible for Matilda without turning it into a disabled house.

Matilda has multiple disabilities but we didn’t want to highlight that. The style of the home lift is not obviously for disabled people and shies away from the prejudice towards people with disabilities.

“It is something we can all use.

“We never thought she would make it when she was first born so we have come a long way.

“The changes we have made to the house have all hopefully made Matilda’s life more comfortable.

“Anyone who has children will tell you that when you see them smile it means the world to you. Matilda cannot speak or walk so when she does smile it tells us that hopefully we are doing something right.”