Beat the Clock

updated 12/20/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/20/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

It was time for the big reveal. As the sun was setting Nov. 3, Patricia Broad-bent and her three adopted daughters, all of whom were born with HIV, stood anxiously outside their Las Vegas home, their view strategically blocked by Extreme Makeover: Home Edition's 40-ft.-long tour bus. Then, with friends and neighbors chiming in, host Ty Pennington delivered the now-familiar catchphrase: "Bus driver... move... that...bus!" "I looked up at my new home, and I kind of lost my balance," says Broadbent, 57, who, like daughters Hydeia, 20, and Trisha, 12, burst into tears. And 16-year-old Shaina? "I was hand-over-mouth in shock," she says.

Of course, tears have become part of the fun on Makeover, where deserving families get hovels turned into dream homes each week. "We didn't set out to make people weep," says executive producer Tom Forman. "We said, 'Let's do good stuff for people who deserve it and make happy endings.' "

Often that's easier said than done. For each episode, including the Broadbents', which airs Dec. 12, Makeover's cast of designers works with contractors to complete the new home in just one week. How do they do it? Often by sheer force of will. During construction, which runs 24 hours a day, "there's incredible teamwork," says the show's carpenter Paige Hemmis. "All these construction guys who normally use four-letter words on the job site are suddenly going 'Excuse me' and 'What can I do for you?' " For the Broadbents, KB Home CEO Bruce Karatz picked up construction and labor costs as a gesture of altruism. Even so, the 1,000-plus-man crew "stayed shift after shift," says KB Home project manager Kris Oesterling. "There was a lot of Starbucks there."

Not that there aren't snafus. In one episode, "we had a backhoe rip into a gas line," says Forman. "We've had cranes sinking into the mud, we've raced to get police escorts for cement trucks to bring in their load before it hardens."

As "reveal" day nears, tensions thicken. "We'll be screaming at each other over where to put a vase," says Hemmis. "We've had camera crews helping to make beds and hang pictures," says Forman. "We've had tilers escaping through bathroom windows just before the family sees the finished product."

Then, says Hemmis, "all the tension melts away. When you hear someone screaming with joy, it just penetrates your soul. You realize we changed their life forever." The Broadbents agree. More than a month after moving in, Patricia, who is undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer, says she's still discovering features and gadgets tucked away in nooks. "I felt like every part of this house was built with love just for me," she says. "Whatever happens now, I'm ready for it. I'm at peace."

Mike Lipton. Ken Lee in Las Vegas and Lyndon Stambler in Los Angeles

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