Published: 05:00, 13 January 2022
| Updated: 15:54, 13 January 2022
A man left paralysed from the waist down after raking leaves hopes a state-of-the-art machine could help him walk again.
Whitstable resident Darren Bovis, 54, had been tidying up his garden when he felt a pain in his back.
Two days later, he struggled to get out of bed and found he had lost the use of his legs.
Now, cricket star Joe Denly is backing a fundraiser to buy an exoskeleton device that could transform his life.
Following his life-changing paralysis, Mr Bovis spent six months undergoing intensive rehabilitation at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
It seemed he would never be able to walk unaided again.
But then he discovered the ReWalk machine, a state-of-the-art exoskeleton which has given him the chance to stand, walk and climb stairs again.
And the South Street resident, who runs a mortgage company, has already noticed a dramatic change in what he can feel within three weeks of using the machine.
“One day I was in the shower and put the cold tap on to see which parts of my body I could feel,” he said.
“I could feel a part of my body – a patch on my right knee which is about the size of a one pence piece – which has now developed into a £2 coin.
“The only thing I have done differently is use the Rewalk machine.
“Mentally it is very stimulating because I am upright but more importantly, my legs are raging.
“When I’m sitting down I don’t feel anything, but when I’m in the machine – it’s like pins and needles and something is going on from the waist down.”
Mr Bovis' condition struck like a bolt from the blue in June 2020.
"Can you believe I was in the garden raking some leaves and my back went?" he said.
"Two days later, I got out of bed and – I didn’t know at the time – but a disc went into and compressed my spine while I was at home. I had some back problems for a while."
The ReWalk technology does not come cheap. The machine is currently being rented from Stoke Mandeville for £3,250.
His pals have since launched a fundraiser to generate £80,000 to ensure he can continue to use the ReWalk and the monthly fees will be deducted from the price of a brand new machine.
Mr Bovis is heavily involved in the community, serving as the captain of Chestfield Golf Club in 2018 and is part of Whitstable Cricket Club.
Kent batsman Joe Denly shared his support for the fundraiser on Instagram.
He writes: "This is my good friend Dazzy B. His life was turned upside down in 2020 when he suffered a severe compression to his spine leaving him paralysed from the waist down.
"Darren has found @rewalk_robotics and his team @darrenbovisrewalking are trying to change his life by raising £80,000 to get him this incredible machine!
"Please take a look, share and donate wherever possible. Daz has been a family friend for many years and he is one of the most optimistic, kind, positive, funny gentleman I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
"He is of course part of the cricket family playing for many Kent league clubs none more so than @whitstablecricketclub where he had many great years.
"Please help spread the word guys, thank you so much."
Mr Bovis hopes to set up a charity to help more people have access to the ReWalk machine as just 29 people in the UK own one.
To donate to the fundraiser, click here.