With an indoor pool, a secret passageway and superhero murals covering an entire wall, 10-year-old Patrick Sharrock lives in a kid's dream home.
It's a dream come true for his parents, too, since Patrick hasn't broken a single bone -- at home -- during the year the Sharrock family has lived in a specially equipped Rossville residence, which those in the area rallied to build for an episode of the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" TV series on ABC.
That injury-free year at home is remarkable because Patrick -- who suffers from brittle-bone disease -- is so achingly fragile that he recently fractured two leg bones when he tripped on an uneven sidewalk.
"They snapped even before he hit the ground," said his father, Michael Sharrock.
The two new breaks brings Patrick's lifetime total to 61 broken bones.
"He's had a rough life, but this is helping," Michael said of the 3,000-square-foot home equipped with such features as heated cork flooring in Patrick's bedroom and his homeschool classroom. The flooring is easier on Patrick's joints when his illness forces him to crawl instead of walk.
At an adult's knee height are an extra set of light switches, shelving and a tiny kitchen sink for those painful days, while an indoor therapy pool provides Patrick the safest form of exercise.
But Patrick is focused on other elements of his home.
"I can say one thing -- it's big!" he said during a recent tour of his bedroom.
Despite his illness, Patrick is a cheerful, irrepressible bundle of energy who was eager to share the escapades of Ultraman and Electroguy, two comic book characters he created.
"You may flip through my comic books. You guys can feel free to read all of them," he said.
Michael remembers he and his wife Cindy had one major request when they talked to the show's producers: "Just make a house that's going to help Patrick."
"This home is 100 times better than what we had," he said.
What they had
What the Sharrocks had was Patrick's late grandfather's house, which they bought from the family.
Unknown to them, it had lurking problems such as rotting wood hidden beneath floor coverings. In the bathroom near the cast-iron tub, "I could literally put my fingers down and push them through the floor," Michael said.
For Patrick, tripping hazards were everywhere: outdoors on uneven concrete paving, and indoors in the transition between carpeting and hardwood floors.
"He tripped going into the living room at least three times and broke his legs," Michael said. "The problem with the floor was the biggest."
Patrick's condition demanded his parents' total attention and didn't allow his father time to tackle a long list of home repairs.
"We literally could not take our attention away from him for a second because everything was a danger to him," he said. "[The house] was falling down around our ears, and there was nothing we could do about it."
Being delivered from a miserable situation through the kindness and hard work of countless well-meaning strangers has had a profound effect on the Sharrocks. It's made the world seem like a better place.
"Before the 'Extreme Makeover,' we felt like we were completely on our own," Michael said.
The family's social life mainly consisted of going out for fast food, he said, but "now we've got more people coming by to visit. We have a lot more of a social life than we did before."
The Sharrocks, including Patrick, also have worked on "Extreme Makeover" homes in Madison, Ga., and more recently in Knoxville.
"We got to give back a little bit," Cindy said.
After "Extreme Makeover," the family made as many appearances as they could, for example at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, the annual Riverbend festival, the Shrine Circus, and at the Creative Discovery Museum.
"At the beginning of it, right after the build, we were invited to more stuff than we could possibly handle," Michael said. "We ran ourselves ragged trying to go to everything we'd been asked to."
One highlight was when Patrick, dressed as Dr. Scorcher, a superhero of his own invention, set off the fireworks at the end of Riverbend in 2011.
Even after a year, however, the Sharrocks are still adjusting to their new life in their new home.
"We're still not in a routine," said Michael.
He hasn't yet been to take advantage of a scholarship offered by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to finish his biology degree. After "Extreme Makeover," he gave up the full-time job he had for almost 12 years in a warehouse because he was worried he might get injured like some of his co-workers.
Michael now works part-time at a supermarket. Cindy is a merchandiser for magazine, books, balloons and other checkout-stand items.
"My son needs my arms and legs," he said. "The money's tight, but he's going to have dad in one piece to help him."
All in all, "we have a lot more of a good life than we did before," Michael said.
It only took about week for the "Extreme Makeover" crew and hundreds of volunteers to demolish the Sharrock's old house and replace it with a stone-clad "Irish cottage."
Like sequestered jurors, the Sharrocks were sent off to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and were forbidden contact with friends and family. They couldn't use cell phones or the Internet.
So they didn't directly see or hear about the hundreds of volunteers and the hard-working construction workers who flocked to help build their new home on Monanaw Avenue. But they came.
"Building in the Volunteer State, we had high expectations, but the turnout of volunteers for the Sharrock episode in Chattanooga blew us away," Diane Korman, senior producer for "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," said in an email. "Over 4,000 volunteers signed-up to make a difference and help a deserving family get a fresh start. It was one of the biggest turnouts we've ever had for a single build."
The Sharrocks have since met many of the volunteers and they've sought them out, including through a post office box that the Sharrocks opened just so volunteers could send letters.
"We had maybe 60 or 70 letters come through to the post office box," Michael said, adding that the Sharrocks have vowed to keep the letters' content confidential.
The Sharrocks marvel when they recount stories of workers who wouldn't even take a break to eat.
"Food had to be taken up to the roofers, and they sat up on the house and ate," Cindy said.
A man they later met at a Wendy's restaurant told them, "My dad and I, we do plumbing, and I was there 36 hours straight," she said.
Likewise, Craig Smith, the owner of Visions Homes which was in charge of construction, remembers putting in long hours during the five-day, around-the-clock home building phase.
"There was a stretch when I did 36 hours and went and slept three hours and then went back for 24," he said.
While being part of "Extreme Makeover" "raised our profile a little bit, I wouldn't say it helped our business. It didn't hurt our business," he said. "We didn't go into it intending to boost our business. We did it to help a family out."
In the past, Cindy's father, who was in the construction business, did work for free for those in need. On "Extreme Makeover," one of those people returned the favor.
Cindy remembers the person telling her, "You know, your dad did a lot of construction work [for us]. Now I'm able to help you."
"That was more to us than the house, to be able to hear the stories of the people," Michael said. "The experience is worth more than the structure to me."
Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...