Two years later, he’s still here and has hope. His is a remarkable story of beating what seemed like impossible odds and almost unbearable setbacks.
But this is no ordinary 60-year-old. Darren has a history with superheroes and a sense of humour which has seen him through some very dark days.
Those days began in January 2020. “I had a little spot on both heels which suddenly spread as though a monster had started eating me,” says Darren. “My feet got black so quickly, my temperature was horrendous.”
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He had sepsis, a life-threatening reaction to an infection. “I got to hospital and died.” You get used to this type of straight-talking from Darren, it must be a way of coping.
He had suffered a heart attack and although he was revived by medics in hospital, Darren was told: “We can’t do that again, you’re so ill.”
As if that wasn’t enough, he had calciphylaxis, which causes blood clots, painful skin ulcers and may cause serious infections that can lead to death.
His choices were stark. “I was told they could take my legs off and I may live to see another day or I could be sent home, my legs would drop off and I’d die.”
If it was possible, things got worse. His condition deteriorated, meaning an operation was too risky.
Wife Lynn recalls: “He was so ill, he had pneumonia and wouldn’t survive an operation.”
A chance meeting with an anaesthetist saved him. She asked if he would have an epidural which would mean he would be conscious during the operation to remove his legs.
“She was like an angel,” says Darren. “She said there was a 98% chance of this working.”
He took the offer and survived. After the operation, he wanted to eat. A good sign as he had nothing for 24 hours and was starving.
But a trip to the hospital canteen almost finished him off as they had run out of sandwiches.
What gave him hope was a friend who couldn’t forget Darren. And if you ever met him, you would see why.
At 6ft 7ins, Darren was a gentle giant in every sense of the word and always stood out. “Every time I got picked for things it was because of my size. I was 6ft tall aged 10, there was no school uniform big enough for me so I was a hero for not wearing it.”
The man who remembered him was Steve Eyre, from Sheffield company World Of Superheroes, which deals with anything based on superheroes.
Darren had made models of comic figures and Steve wanted to help. He said: “Against all odds, the big man battled through sepsis and is still with us today looking forward with his characteristic hope, enthusiasm and positivity.
“The problem is he is now housebound, with the NHS unable to offer him suitable transport to enable him to regain a semblance of his former life.
“We are determined to remedy this and to reignite his lifelong passion for motorbikes, trikes and the open road, by purchasing a modified disability trike from the Trike Guys which will afford Darren the freedom to rebuild his life.
“Life-changing is a phrase overused in this day and age but in Darren’s case it fits. This would change his life and that of Lynn so much for the better.”
Darren says: “It would be brilliant. I could go out when I wanted to, where I wanted to. It would be freedom.”
Lynn, who has been with Darren for 14 years, adds: “It has changed his mood. It is motivating him and has given him a purpose. He is doing more exercise.”
It was hard. He came home and the pandemic hit, leaving him isolated for days on end.
Darren says: “A prisoner gets more exercise than me because at least he gets out in the yard. The bike would get me out.”
But he’s determined not to be miserable. “If you’re miserable, the only person doing that is yourself.”
He’s helped by Lynn and some good friends who have rallied round.
“All my friends from school have come to see me. I hadn’t seen them for 43 years, but they’ve travelled from all over the country including Devon.”
Lynn, who married Darren in 2019, adds: “I’m so grateful, it makes him feel so much better.”
At his lowest point, Darren told Lynn he had no regrets. When you track his life, you can see why.
Born in Hampshire, he moved around the country a lot in his early years. Germany, London, Manchester. Later in life he discovered why. His dad was in the SAS and they moved where he was based.
The cover was that his mum ran pubs, Darren knew nothing of his dad’s work.
When they got to Sheffield, Darren liked it and at 14 decided this was home. He went to Silverdale School and left at 16.
His cousins were in London and he had been visiting them at weekends, excited by the punk scene. By the time he left Silverdale, he was connected and became a roadie for The Clash and The Damned.
The legacy lives on as he sports an anarchy T-shirt and shows me a picture of Clash frontman Joe Strummer on his phone. It must be from the band’s early days as a youthful looking Joe has curly hair. “I’d been standing outside Viviene Westwood’s shop, got introduced to people, it started from there. Joe Strummer was great, he just did his own thing, suited himself,” says Darren.
After three years he started doing T-shirt printing and then fell into acting, working with former page 3 girl Samantha Fox doing dad dancing on a video for her. He also worked with Minder star George Cole before landing a job with Sheffield Council as an environmental officer.
It led to more Tv work as BBC show Life Of Grime was shot here and Steve was featured in the early 2000s.
He had been asked to come up with an initiative and plumped for dog poo bins. Four hundred were installed across the city over two years.
Steve was featured on the programme uttering the immortal lines: “The advantage of picking up dog poo is that it keeps your hands warm.”
He was on three of the six episodes. “Other cities tried to outdo us. We didn’t have a formula to live up to, we just did it naturally.”
Unfortunately, he slipped on some poo and injured his back, meaning he could no longer do the job and that’s where comic figures came into his life.
He had always been a fan of DC comics and crafted figures based on the characters.
He has graced the halls of Comic Book Conventions and Memorabilia Events in the UK showcasing his handmade, hand-painted models, statues and busts from the world of movies, sci-fi and TV.
His clients include the great and the good, A-list actors and directors, celebrities and VIPs. Over the years he has donated his time, energy and wares to help local charities and good causes.
Tv chef Delia Smith asked for Skeleton Jack, Lord of the Rings star Andy Sirkis wanted Gollum. He also met Hollywood A-listers Johnny Depp and David Hasselhoff at conventions. Thriller director John Landis was happy to pose with him.
Darren’s house pays tribute to all this. It is stuffed with figures including a Dalek from Dr Who and C3P0 from Star Wars. He’s not phased by the glamour.
“Stars don’t like talking unless it’s something they are interested in,” says Daren. “Bikes was always a good one, I’d been riding since I was 16 and it was a passion.”
This is why the trike has given him hope. It taps into something he is passionate about. You can see how much it would help when he gets outside the house where he lives with Lynn.
He comes alive and is happy to steer up and down the grounds of Abbey Lane cemetery in Beauchief. It is here that he bought a derelict house and renovated it.
“The council couldn’t afford to do it up so I said if I repair it, can I live in it? I’ve been here 29 years,” he says.
Spooky? “It is so quiet. The only noise is from foxes. People are dying to get in here!”
That humour, you just can’t keep a good man down. Which is why the trike, which would cost £35,000, is key. He has a wheelchair but it is limited in what it can do.
“If I could get the trike it would be like having a second pair of legs. I would be out and it would give me something for the future.”
Once the funds have been raised, the Holbrook based World of Superheroes has pledged to cover the running costs including insurance, maintenance, tax and fuel going forward.
Help them to help a good man get back on the road again. To donate, follow this Gofundme link https://gofund.me/63089732