A FORMER soldier left with brain damage was "held to ransom" in her living room for more than a month after a company refused to fix her stairlift.

Only after The Northern Echo intervened yesterday, did supplier, ThyssenKrupp Encasa (TK Encasa), agree to repair the stairlift in Gina Brannigan’s Newton Aycliffe home.

The 38-year-old, who joined the army in 1997 and has served in Kosovo and Sierra Leone, was left stranded downstairs after it failed due to a faulty footplate.

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Since August she has been sleeping on the sofa and – without a downstairs loo – has been forced to both wash and use a commode in the living room.

Fiancee and full-time carer, fellow Army veteran Mark Shalliker, said he immediately reported the problem to TK Encasa but said the Stockton firm refused to repair it under warranty.

He claimed he was told the couple must pay £200 for the repair as the fault must have been caused through “misuse” and was therefore not covered.

“It’s ridiculous; she cannot shower, she cannot use the toilet, she cannot use the bed properly so she’s stuck on the couch and cannot stand by herself," said the 51-year-old.

"We have now got a commode but before we had a pot and it’s totally embarrassing.

“Knowing what she’s done for this country, for a company to not fix something that they have installed is disgusting.”

“It’s just the agony of someone who has given everything, their entire life to serve this country and been injured on active duty. It’s like we are being held to ransom.”

After advice from Trading Standards, Mr Shalliker wrote to the company early last month to ask them to fix the stairlift or face legal action – but he did not receive any reply.

Miss Brannigan said the whole experience had been shocking and that the company had failed to realise how much she depended on the stairlift.

She was flown back to England for brain surgery in 2002 after collapsing whilst on patrol with the Royal Logistics Corps during her second tour of Kosovo.

Doctors found she had suffered a brain stem cavernoma – a condition affecting just one in 400,000 people in the UK.

She was promoted to lance corporal in her hospital bed – but the condition ended her army career.

Since then Miss Brannigan has undergone three brain operations and also suffers from restricted speech and is unable to stand unaided.

Despite her difficulties, she is determined to enjoy life and became engaged to Mr Shalliker, after the pair reunited five years ago.

He was a corporal in the Parachute Regiment until his own 27-year-long career ended in 2009 after he broke his back.

Their home – which previously had a stairlift for Mr Shalliker – was fitted with a new stairlift to accommodate Miss Brannigan’s needs four years through Durham County Council.

“The stairlift can take up to 21 stone and I’m only 16 so I don’t know how it can be misused," he added. "I’m still trying to figure out how you can misuse a stairlift.”

However, yesterday Mr Shalliker said he had been contacted by the company “at the eleventh hour” following an enquiry by The Northern Echo – and was assured an engineer would be quickly out to fix the problem.

“There’s been no movement at all for four weeks then the Echo get involved and all of a sudden they want to fix it."

  • TK Encasa failed to provide a comment when contacted by The Northern Echo.