Home   Medway   News   Article

Chronically disabled woman confined to living in cramped kitchen of Gillingham home after health problems

A chronically disabled woman has said she would rather die than continue to live in the cramped kitchen she calls her “prison”.

Illa Smyth is confined to eat, sleep and wash in the 13ft square ground floor room because her weight means she struggles to get up or squeeze through doors.

The 54-year-old said the last time she left her terrace home in Gillingham was to go to the hospital when she had to be assisted out by paramedics into an ambulance.

She has been isolated to one room as her health deteriorated over the last 20 years and she is unable to climb stairs.

Medway Council did grant £30,000 towards improvements in 2013, but Illa and husband Alan were told that this would not be enough to cover all the works needed.

The former McDonald’s children’s party organiser, who initially developed endometriosis and suffered several falls in skiing and horseriding accidents, has undergone at least 11 operations.

Illa suffers from gout, has arthritis in her joints and is incontinent.

Illa Smyth with husband Alan in her prison"of a home
Illa Smyth with husband Alan in her prison"of a home

Unable to walk unassisted the once fit and active woman has piled on the pounds and now weighs around 35 stone.

Illa has looked into having weight reduction surgery but said she is on a “waiting list for a waiting list”.

Fighting back tears, she told KentOnline: “If I go to bed and don’t wake up that would be a good thing.

“I have been housebound for what feels like forever. I have arthritis, gout, eczema and depression.

“I sometimes think suicide is a good option.

"If it was not for the fact my husband is here I would have taken that option, yet I am still here.

"I do not know the date because it doesn't make a difference to me because next month and next year things are going to be exactly the same.”

Illa and husband Alan, 57, have lived in the same three-storey house in Richmond Road for all 27 years of their married life.

It was bought as a wedding present from Alan’s mother and they have since repaid her and have no mortgage.

Alan Smyth and Illa when they first got engaged. Picture: Megan Carr
Alan Smyth and Illa when they first got engaged. Picture: Megan Carr

Warehouse worker Alan has been pressing Medway Council for grants to modify the property for Illa with wider doorways, levelled surfaces outside, a ground floor wet room and a bedroom.

In a letter dated July 2022 from the council’s adult social care department, which has been seen by KentOnline, it concluded that Mrs Smyth’s needs could only be met by moving to a more accessible property.

However, in their written response to requests for major adaptations to the couple’s home, the local authority says the pair would need to fork out approximately £55,000 to £60,000 for the works.

But this is not seen as a “reasonable or practical” way forward as only half of this could be sourced from a disabled facilities grant from the council themselves - the other half would need to be raised by the couple.

In the absence of sufficient funds for the improvements, the couple have explored other options but do not have enough money to put down a deposit or rent a suitable flat either.

Alan Smyth is fighting for grant to make his garden accessible for his disabled wife
Alan Smyth is fighting for grant to make his garden accessible for his disabled wife

Alan said: “This our home and we don’t want to move. We have looked at other accommodation, but there’s nothing in our price range.

“If we rent we would soon run out of money.

“We need a flat that is big enough for a wheelchair and on the ground floor. And we could not afford adaptations on top.”

Alan, who works for Moss Electrical in Dartford, said his own health has suffered while looking after his wife.

He added: “I work long hours and come home to do three to five washes. Although she has carers every day I dread to think what would happen if a fire broke out.

“All we want is to get out in the sunshine and get out and about.

”We have explored all options but don’t have that sort of money.

“I work long hours and we are keeping our heads above water, but only just.”

Illa, who is of Asian descent, would love to be able to worship at her Hindu temple and join community groups.

Instead, she spends her day in her specially built chair reading books.

She said: “This room is my prison. A dog can climb out of a kennel, a cat can get out of the window. I can’t even get out the back door.

“A cat or a dog leads a better life than me.”

Illa added: “I might be old- fashioned but I’d like to wash under a tap and not from a bucket of water.

“I’d like to use a shower and sit on a proper toilet and not a commode.

“I lost my dignity a long time ago. When someone is wiping your bottom and putting a nappy on you, you lose it.

"This is not what I pictured for myself. I wanted to be independent, hard-working, and a good person and be with the person I love.

"We have done all the things you’re supposed to do and you think to yourself if I need help it will be there, but it isn't.

"When my husband comes home at the end of the day I have to put a smile on my face and say to him 'yes darling I have had a good day', and really I am thinking ‘why does this devil love me enough to stay with me?’"

Despite her growing set of health problems, Illa thanked her husband for his unwaivering support.

She said: ”He has aged about 50 years. He’s one of the best men in the world.”

Medway Council has been approached for comment.

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More