Steve Ryan, 61, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 12 years ago. Ever since, his wife Sue, 55, has adapted to life as his full-time carer.
The pair have continued to provide a solid support system for their children, working around Steve’s degenerative condition which sees him take a minimum of 34 tablets a day, alongside morphine patches to relieve the pain.
The round-the-clock care meant that, over the years, their home fell into a state of disrepair. But all of that changed when their son Jake, 23, and daughter Lois, 21, sent them away on a surprise weekend for their 25th wedding anniversary.
On their return home, Steve and Sue discovered their house had been totally transformed by Jake, Lois and a few of their friends - with new carpets, furnishings and a lick of paint.
“It was important to me, because my family give so much of their time and energy to other people - friends, family and strangers - despite my dad’s health problem, and it is rarely repaid to them,” Jake told HuffPost UK.
“I wanted them to know how many people’s lives they’ve touched and how their kindness has never gone unnoticed.”
When Steve was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s his condition was manageable, however over the past few years it has progressed quite quickly. “One minute he can be lively and walking about, and the next he can’t move, breathe, talk or walk,” Jake explained.
Combined with the passing of both of Sue’s parents this year, things have been particularly tough for the family. But through it all, they’ve soldiered on.
“My mum is incredible,” Jake said. “Dad’s illness often results in mum having sleepless nights and busy, busy days. The never-ending cycle of pills and the unpredictability of the illness is exhausting. And all this while dealing with the recent death of her parents.
“Some days I don’t know how she copes. But their strength and love as a couple is inspiring to me and so many of our close friends.”
In the lead up to Steve and Sue’s 25th wedding anniversary, Jake and Lois hatched a plan to send them away, while they spent 48 hours renovating the house.
“As soon as they left the real surprise began, I’d been planning it only for about three weeks,” Jake, who runs a landscaping business, said.
On the Friday evening, Jake, Lois and 10 of their close friends began tearing the house apart and running errands to buy materials such as carpet, paint, plaster and timber. Jake paid for the renovations out of his own savings - it cost £400.
In the space of 48 hours, they fitted a new carpet, painted the hall and living room, laid a new lawn, built ramps in the decking for Steve to walk up, fixed the toilet and the shower, plastered over a huge hole in the kitchen roof and attached a gate to the side of the house.
When Steve and Sue returned to their home after a weekend away, they were moved to tears. “I just felt blown away,” Sue told HuffPost UK. “Steve just stood with tears rolling down his face. It robbed him of his words.
“I couldn’t believe it had been done.”
Jake filmed a video of his parents’ reaction to the home improvements, which he shared on Facebook. He said: “When they walked into the house and I saw their reaction, words can’t describe the mix of emotions. It’s been a tough few years for us.
“For me I felt overwhelmingly proud, especially of my sister and my mates who gave up two days of their time to make two very special people unimaginably happy.”
Sue and Steve are eternally grateful to their children for making their house a home again. “I just want to thank them for still being such a massive part of our lives, still putting up with mum and dad, still being part of the family,” Sue said.
“I asked Lois what made them do it and she looked at me like I’m an idiot. She said: ‘It’s simple, it’s because we love you.’
“We love them to bits, we’re very proud.”