Mum-of-four: “I was dumped af­ter a stroke – but I found love with my per­sonal trainer”

Riona Kelly lost both the use of her legs and her hus­band within five days, but says she’s now hap­pier than ever

Closer (UK) - - Inside This Issue... - By Poppy Danby

Mar­ried with four beau­ti­ful M chil­dren and a suc­cess­ful ca­reer as a teacher, Riona Kelly thought she had it all.

But her world came crash­ing down when she suf­fered a rare spinal stroke in March 2015. Not only was she told she’d never walk again, but shock­ingly her hus­band asked for a di­vorce.

How­ever, brave Riona was de­ter­mined to get her life back on track and hired per­sonal trainer Keith Ma­son, 35, to help her learn to walk again – and amaz­ingly the cou­ple fell in love.

Riona, who lives in Hal­i­fax, West York­shire, with Keith and her four chil­dren, Leighanra, 16, Caleb, 11, Iz­abela, nine, and Lo­gan, five, says: “Af­ter the stroke I hit rock bot­tom and felt like giv­ing up – it was only the thought of my chil­dren liv­ing with­out a mum that stopped me com­mit­ting sui­cide.

“But now I’ve de­fied doc­tors by learn­ing to walk again and I’ve fi­nally found true love. Life has never been bet­ter.”

Riona had al­ways been healthy un­til her life changed com­pletely at the age of 34.

She says: “I’d taken the day off work and was at home with my son Lo­gan. I just re­mem­ber stand­ing at the top of the stairs when sud­denly ev­ery­thing turned black. Lo­gan said that I fell from the top to the bot­tom and he called for help when I didn’t come round.”

IN SHOCK

Riona re­calls: “I woke up in the spinal unit of Pin­der­fields Gen­eral Hospi­tal where I was told I’d had a stroke due to a dis­rup­tion of blood to my spine, mean­ing I might never walk again. Doc­tors had ab­so­lutely no idea why some­thing like this would have hap­pened. At first I was in shock, but as the news sunk in I felt like my life was over.

“I was ab­so­lutely ter­ri­fied about the fu­ture and, if some­one had given me the choice, I’d have ended my life.”

Riona suf­fered another blow when, five days later, her hus­band asked her for a di­vorce.

She says: “We’d been hav­ing prob­lems for a while.”

How­ever, Riona knew that she had to keep go­ing for the sake of her chil­dren and af­ter eight weeks of physio, she amazed every­one by tak­ing her first steps us­ing a stand­ing frame.

She says: “I was stub­born and re­fused to ac­cept be­ing dis­abled. In or­der to walk I had to drag my body as I had no feel­ing in my legs – but I didn’t care, I was walk­ing and that’s all that mat­tered. It felt amaz­ing and, even though I was only tak­ing tiny steps, it made me even more de­ter­mined to learn to walk again prop­erly.

“Ev­ery day I built up my strength and af­ter four months in hospi­tal I was fi­nally al­lowed to go home. It would take me 25 min­utes to get up 16 stairs, and the same amount to come back down again. The first time I show­ered it took me four hours. But I was de­ter­mined to do it for my chil­dren, who were ab­so­lutely amaz­ing. They adapted in­cred­i­bly well and my friend Sarah helped me take care of them.

“I tried to go back to my job, but the doc­tors told me I had to choose be­tween work­ing and walk­ing, so I gave it up.”

GET­TING HELP

Then in Jan­uary 2016, as part of her re­cov­ery, Riona de­cided to en­list the help of a per­sonal trainer – and a friend sug­gested that she get in touch with for­mer rugby player and ac­tor, Keith.

Riona says: “I got on with

❛IT WAS ONLY THE THOUGHT OF MY CHIL­DREN THAT KEPT ME GO­ING❜

Keith im­me­di­ately and he was de­ter­mined to help me. We did a lot of up­per body work­outs and ab ex­er­cises to strengthen my core and help with walk­ing.

“I only saw Keith two or three times a week for two months but it re­ally made a dif­fer­ence.”

The pair kept in touch and, in Oc­to­ber 2016, Keith – who has a daugh­ter, Kalani, five, from a pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ship – asked Riona out on a date.

She says: “We’d al­ways had a com­pletely pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ship and I couldn’t be­lieve a gor­geous rugby player like him would want to date a dis­abled woman like me. But our night out – we went for a Turk­ish meal – was amaz­ing and I laughed so much.”

The pair quickly grew close and, ear­lier this year, Keith moved into Riona’s home.

She says: “I was re­ally wor­ried about be­ing ro­man­tic with a new man since the in­ci­dent, but Keith never saw me as dis­abled. He gave me con­fi­dence and we’re in­ti­mate like any other cou­ple.”

STRONGER THAN EVER

She adds: “Keith is my best friend. I’m not de­pen­dent on him, but he’s al­ways there to help out. He’s been amaz­ing with me and the chil­dren and I love him more each and ev­ery day.

“Now I only need my wheel­chair to go long dis­tances – with Keith’s help I’m get­ting bet­ter and stronger than ever. No­body can pre­dict if I’ll make a full re­cov­ery, but I’ll keep push­ing my­self.”

And Riona now has high hopes for the fu­ture.

She adds: “I’d love to marry Keith one day. I’m also set­ting up a char­ity Go Pink for peo­ple who are strug­gling with their dis­abil­i­ties to show them that it’s not the end of the world – you just have to be­lieve in your­self.

“When I had my stroke, I thought that my life was over. But look­ing back, go­ing through what I did was the best thing to ever hap­pen to me.”

Riona had physio to learn to walk again

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