Heathhall’s Richard Aske-Haley and Kat Marzke are tying the knot in March next year but Richard was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2010 and the condition means he struggles to walk, let alone dance.
But a ground-breaking clinical trial run by East Kent Hospitals Trust staff could give them the chance to celebrate their wedding with a first dance in front of family and friends.
Richard, 56, said: “The trial offers something phenomenal – hope. But it is taking place in Kent, almost 400 miles away.
“It will cost us thousands in petrol and hotel stays and at first I thought it would be impossible because we are saving for the wedding.
“But my family were so enthusiastic about it and wanted to help so suggested we start a fundraiser to help cover the costs.”
The trial uses the latest robotic technology to help people with progressive conditions such as multiple sclerosis re-learn how to walk again.
Patients are securely positioned into a machine, known as a Rex robotic exo-skeleton, and start to retrain their muscles and build up their strength through a programme of exercises.
It focuses on strengthening core abdominal muscles by encouraging people to actively use these muscles while moving from sit to stand and back to sit, as well as lifting arm weights and throwing and catching a balloon.
The machine also ‘walks’ them forward and back slowly, allowing them to consciously focus on these muscles to improve balance, mobility and strength.
Just 20 patients from across the UK have been recruited as participants but results are already proving positive, with one man able to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding thanks to the improvements in his balance and mobility.
Richard said: “Being in the machine feels very strange, very surreal and very inspiring.
“It gives me the opportunity to look people in the eye, rather than them looking down at me in the wheelchair or mobility scooter.
“It gives me more self-confidence and in time it should strengthen my body and my muscles.
“The aim is the first dance, because that’s something everyone wants to do at their wedding.
“We want to feel normal, not different. Just because I am slightly disabled why shouldn’t I do what normal people do?”
The pair are hoping to raise £3000 to cover their costs and allow Richard to complete five sessions in the device.
Kat, a self-employed cleaner, said they were determined to succeed.
She said: “To see his face in the device makes all the journeys and all the time and expense worth it.
“I don’t see his disability, I just see Richard, but day to day life does bring its challenges and if the trial can make those a bit easier then it will be fantastic.
“I can’t wait to dance with him at our wedding.”
To donate to the fundraiser, search for Richard’s Rehabilitation Trial Fundraiser on Facebook or click https://tinyurl.com/MStrialfundraiser