Published: 19:48, 28 August 2019
| Updated: 20:10, 28 August 2019
A dad achieved his dream of walking his daughter down the aisle at her wedding thanks to a robotic legs trial.
Steve Barnes is one of 20 patients involved in a trial at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital using a robotic exo-skeleton to help people with progressive conditions - such as multiple sclerosis - re-learn how to walk again.
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The 59-year-old travelled from his home in Reading to Canterbury to take part in the trial and set himself the target of being able to walk with his daughter Coral down the aisle on her wedding day - rather than using his mobility scooter.
Mr Barnes said: “At the start of the trial I could only stand for 30 seconds.
"At the end they asked me to do it for two minutes, and those two minutes were effortless. I am sure I could have gone on and done more.
“I was also able to balance while looking over my shoulder and reaching forward while standing – it felt quite revelatory being able to do these things.”
The exo-skeleton at Kent and Canterbury Hospital is designed to build core and leg strength.
It also "walks" them forward and back slowly which allows them to consciously focus on these muscles to improve balance, mobility and strength.
Steve was able to practise the exercises at home ahead of his daughter’s wedding to fiancé James last Saturday.
He said: “It was really emotional – the night before the wedding, my daughter gave me some socks with the words ‘slow and steady’ on and the date.
“I didn’t want to let her down and even that morning the registrar said we might have to think about using the scooter as my legs were hardly functioning but I was able to do it and it was brilliant.
A medical trial in Canterbury is helping transform patients' lives
“The whole day was fantastic but the fact I was able to walk her down the aisle was the icing on the cake.”
If the hospital can bring in more units then it could go some of the way to helping patients across the UK.
Though partly charity funded, they cost in excess of £100,000.
Dr Mohamed Sakel, one of the trial’s leaders, said: “We have the opportunity with this trial to help people make a real difference to their lives.
“The machine takes away the risk of falling and the fear that accompanies it and allows people to become confident in a safe environment.
"They can retrain their muscles and build up their strength so they are able to realise the benefits outside of the machine as well.
“I’m delighted to see the results from patients such as Steve and am looking forward to analysing the data and seeing if we can help even more people in the future.”