What do you do if the person who you depend upon most is not there for you during the most difficult time in your life? This is the question that Riona had to ask herself after she had a terrible stroke and was left without the ability to walk.
Riona Kelly and her husband had been living life as usual and were smooth sailing after 14 years together when Riona suddenly suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed from the waist down. Doctors told her that she would never walk again, and to make it worse, her husband filed for divorce five days after she got the bad news.
His Side Of The Story
Riona’s husband claimed that he had decided he wanted a divorce before the stroke. “While she was in the hospital I visited as much as I could of an evening,” he said. “I had to take care of the children, look after the house and run a business. I lived in the house with Riona and the kids until last June before I eventually moved out, and we have now both moved on.”
Determined To Continue
Riona was determined to push on despite her husband’s decision. Her friend Sarah helped her with her children and supported her. She hadn’t been happy in her marriage, but it was inconvenient timing, to say the least. “Looking back I was miserable in my marriage, but we had built a life together and had responsibilities,” Riona said. “It was the time I needed my husband the most.”
Time To Move On
Riona had four children: Leighanra, age 16, Caleb, age 11, Izabela, age 9, and Logan, age 5. It was going to be tough, Riona admitted. “After five days in hospital I was told it would take me six months to a year to recover,” Riona said. Fortunately, a former rugby league player named Keith Mason would be there to help her through it all.
Riona wanted to put in the extra work to try to walk again, despite what doctors had advised her. She went on Facebook to look for a personal trainer and was matched up with Keith. Within eight weeks of the stroke, she took assisted steps with Keith’s help in physical therapy. “At the time I felt like giving up, but I knew I had to be strong for my children and so when I finally took my first steps it felt amazing,” Riona said.
Riona was dealing with a lot of physical stress, but heartache, too. “After suffering a stroke not only did I have to deal with paralysis but I had to deal with losing my partner of 14 years,” she said. She also had to deal with going out in a wheelchair and feeling like everyone was looking at her. “I hated it and hated myself,” she said. Her friend Sarah and children helped her push on, however.
Riona was surprised at first when Keith showed an interest in dating her after they worked together in physical therapy. “I just couldn’t believe a gorgeous rugby player wanted to date a disabled woman like me,” she said. Keith, like Riona, was a parent and had a child from a previous relationship. It seemed to be good fortune that the two of them were matched up together.
Before she knew it, Riona was progressing in more ways than one. She was not only strengthening her legs in ways that doctors couldn’t have possibly predicted, but she was also healing her heart from the setback that occurred when her husband filed for divorce. Furthermore, she was progressing in her new relationship with her boyfriend, Keith.
Off To A Good Start
Riona said that Keith would frequently contact her between therapy sessions to see how things were going. “And then one day Keith asked me out for coffee and we picked up from where we left off,” Riona said. “We have now been together for 11 months, the children really like him and I finally feel like I’m living the life I deserve.”
Getting Strong Now
Although walking is still quite a struggle, Riona Kelly has not given up in the least. She regularly works out to strengthen her legs and posts videos to her many followers on Instagram. She has also completed a pair of marathons while in her wheelchair, proving that she has determination far beyond what anyone would have expected. “Keith says I inspire him, but he encourages me every day,” Riona said.
Life Is Unpredictable
Looking back on the day that her stroke happened, Riona said that she still thinks about how unpredictable life can be. “I was at home one day with Logan, I can’t remember exactly what happened but I fell down a complete flight of stairs and Logan had to call for help,” Riona reminisces. Riona realizes now that just about anything can happen at any moment.
Although Riona’s recovery has been difficult, it’s also been a succession of little miracles. First, she was fortunate that her son was there to call for help when her stroke occurred. Another miracle was that she was able to take her first steps eight weeks after the stroke, especially when she still couldn’t feel anything in her legs after six weeks.
One reason that the whole instance was so frustrating is that it made little sense to her. Doctors theorized that a car accident 18 months before the stroke may have contributed to her challenges by causing problems with her spine. “But other than that I was a fit and healthy woman and there was no other reason why this would happen,” Riona said.
Her first steps came two weeks after doctors estimated and weren’t quite what she had hoped for, but she continued to stay positive nonetheless. “I was dragging my body and I had no feeling in my legs but I didn’t care, I was walking and that’s all that mattered,” said Riona of the first time she took steps with the help of the parallel bars.
Riona said that the other patients in her ward were extremely helpful and gave her the motivation she needed to keep on fighting. “Every day I built up my strength and after four months in the hospital, I was finally allowed to go home,” Riona said. “It took me 25 minutes to get up 16 steps, and the same time to come back down again, but I was determined to do it for my children.”
Blessing In Disguise
Although Riona’s road has been extremely difficult, she can also see that there has been a silver lining in the form of her blossoming relationship with Keith. “He has been amazing with me and the children and I love him more each and every day,” she said. “Looking back, going through what I did was the best thing to ever happen to me.”
A Strong Relationship
Keith and Riona aren’t just a couple; they’re also a team that is working together to get mentally and physically stronger. “I’m now back in the gym, and with Keith’s help, I’m getting better and stronger than ever,” Riona said. Keith loves to stay in shape and has been instrumental in helping her get stronger each and every day with an eye toward meeting her goals.
Life Isn’t Over
Riona not only found that her life was far from over, but that it could actually be even better than she had imagined. “After my stroke, I thought my life was over,” she confessed. “But it’s only just beginning and has opened so many wonderful doors, I’ve signed up with Models of Diversity and have just landed my first TV commercial!”
Living The Dream
In her struggles, Riona discovered that she could become an inspiration to others in her situation. “From my story reaching all corners of the world BIG modelling offers are coming in fast & there’s serious names on the table! It’s just amazing,” Riona wrote on Instagram. “I decided to become a disabled model to show all the beautiful women in the world that anything is possible & never let anything stop you from achieving your dreams.”
Ready To Fight
Riona has admitted that she has her daily struggles and moments where she wants to give up, but she always wakes up ready to fight for another day. One day, she was working to clean out her kitchen cupboards but the pain made it hard to finish the task. She was feeling terrible about it when Keith came in, held her and told her how much she had inspired him. It seems like they’re on their road to success together.