A SCOTTISH RAF airman who was paralysed from the chest down in a Taliban bomb blast two years ago has stunned doctors by taking his first steps after being fitted with a bionic ‘exo-skeleton’.
Lance Corporal Kevin Ogilvie, 24, was told he would never walk again after his armoured vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan in 2012.
Now Kevin, from Carnoustie, Angus, has taken his first steps since the attack after being supplied with the revolutionary kit.
The prototype device, developed by New Zealand-based company Rex Bionics, allows him to control a set of mechanical legs with a joystick.
Ogilvie said: “It was really cool, but also really strange, to be walking again after so long.
“It was weird to use, but weird in a good sense, having no feeling or control below my chest made seeing me moving even weirder.”
Kevin, who now lives in Lowestoft, Suffolk with wife Aimee and two-year-old daughter Grace, was critically injured by the IED while on patrol with the Lossiemouth-based 51 Squadron in September 2012.
Three of his colleagues escaped with burns and broken bones, but Ogilvie took the full force of the blast and was immediately evacuated home.
Ogilvie, who was on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan in a ground-based role securing airfields, said: “I was six weeks lying on my front in a hospital bed.
“I wasn’t allowed to move at all because my spine was so badly broken - I thought I would go mad with boredom.
“When they eventually brought me a wheelchair I can’t explain just how eager I was to get into it and get about again.”
‘Changed for the better’
Doctors did not think he would make it back to the UK alive, but although he was left paralysed from the chest down he soon set about defying the medics’ expectations.
He said: “At first, I thought the world had ended. It really knocked my self-confidence.
“But I think my experiences have changed me for the better. You realise what is important in life and I’ve been able to spend more time with my family than I ever could before.”
Kevin’s father Phil, 62, said the family had been “absolutely stunned” when they heard Kevin had been injured.
The service engineer said: “We were driving home from a day of shopping in Aberdeen when my wife got a message from one of her colleagues that the RAF and Police were looking for us.
“We didn’t know what to expect, we had heard all these stories about soldiers being blinded and losing legs over there.”
Phil and wife Rhona didn’t see the extent of Kevin’s injuries until they reached the intensive care at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where their son was being held.
He said: “We saw the x-rays and it sunk in how badly he had been injured.”
But now the family have new hope that Kevin, who is confined to a wheelchair, will be able to walk again.
Phil added: “The device is still in the development stage but it’s hoped that in four or five years it will be fully operational.
“Kevin thinks it is just great, he says he feels like Robocop when he uses it. There is definitely hope on the horizon.”
Kevin and his younger brother Ali, 22, have teamed up to try to raise £10,000 to thank the military charities which helped Kevin through his darkest days.
Kevin added: “You hear about these charities as a serviceman, but you never really appreciate the phenomenal help they provide until you need it.
“They helped me and my family so much I want to do everything I can for them in return.”
His brother Ali added: “Obviously it was a very emotional and traumatic time for Kevin, but he’s so much more optimistic now. He sees there’s a future.”
The brothers are now busy planning ways to raise £10,000 for the RAF Benevolent Fund and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association by the end of the year.
Ali, who works for the fire service in Aberdeen, will do two bungee jumps over the course of a weekend.
The first will be on Saturday, April 26, in Killiecrankie, near Pitlochry, and the second will be in Glasgow the next day. Anyone wishing to donate can do so at www.ogilviefundraising.co.uk.