Groom with MS stands up from wheelchair to dance with bride
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Sure, weddings are always tear-jerkers — but this one went above and beyond
A groom with multiple sclerosis, who has depended on a wheelchair for five years to get around, shocked friends and family when he stood up — and danced for the first time with his bride.
Father of three Barry MacDowell, 49, knew he wanted to do something something special for his fiancée Emma, 36.
The ideal wedding gift turned out to be the enormous task of undergoing physical therapy for months in a bid to stand again and share a dance with his new wife on their special day.
MacDowell — who was diagnosed with MS in 2015 — has been using a wheelchair since 2018.
Although he could walk when he met Emma — who also has MS — in 2017, it was short-lived, and he is now fully reliant on his wheelchair.
"Because of [him needing the wheelchair], I would always have to be behind him pushing him, because at the start, he couldn't self-propel," Emma explained to SWNS, recalling their special moment.
"So that dance was a different type of closeness. Until then, I never even knew he was taller than me," she marveled. "Now it's done, it doesn't feel real — I want to do it again."
MacDowell proposed to Emma — who was diagnosed with MS at age 29 — in 2021, four years after they first met in a support group, and immediately launched into planning their big day.
However, they hit pause on their plans when Emma's father passed away not long after they got engaged.
"His death put things into perspective — for a while, I didn't see the point in marrying, because my dad wouldn't be there," Emma, who has a child from a previous relationship, said. "But when Barry suggested instead we have a quiet wedding, I realized I did want to share it with lots of people after all."
They booked their venue in early 2022 and began preparing for their big day — but the groom-to-be had something else he wanted to do: dance with Emma.
MacDowell decided he wanted to make the day even more special — dedicating himself to a year of physiotherapy to help him learn to stand, so he could properly dance on their big day.
So, the loved-up Scottish couple enlisted the help of Move4ward — an organization that specializes in neuro-physiotherapy and rehabilitation — to help him achieve his goal.
"It was just amazing. I told them about the wedding first dance, and they said, ‘Yeah, we’ll get you to do this,’ " he recalled.
The determined man had countless sessions with physiotherapists, which involved him practicing walking on parallel bars and a zero-gravity treadmill. Although progress was slow, he was making steady improvements.
They tried to get him to use vertical leg braces, but he found them too painful. So they decided that Dave and Jude from Move4ward would hold him up for the dance.
When it came to the big day on April 8, 2023, Dave and Jude dressed in black and went to the dance floor to help MacDowell — with none of the guests having a clue as to what was about to happen.
When their song for their first dance — "Thinking Out Loud" by Ed Sheeran — came on, MacDowell stood.
"When your legs don't work like they used to before," Sheeran sings in the song's opening line.
MacDowell remained standing for the entire 1 minute and 30 seconds of the dance — the longest amount of time he had stood in years.
The former BMW technician admitted his leg muscles were sore for two and a half weeks after the wedding — but gushed, "It was worth it, of course."
"Every day now, I’ve got earbuds in, and I sit and watch our wedding video," he added. "I love it, I just can't stop watching it."Get seats. Earn rewards. Experience it live.