A Halifax woman who was paralysed following a stroke visited a college to tell students the inspiring story of how she managed to walk again - and found love with the personal trainer who helped her.
Riona Kelly suffered a rare spinal stroke in March 2015, aged 34. It left the mum-of-four paralysed from the waist down.
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Doctors told her she would never walk again but the former teacher’s determination and hard work has seen her defy the medics’ expectations and she recently walked into a classroom at Bradford College to share her experience with students in the hope of motivating them to make the most of their lives.
“I want to encourage people to face their fears and to give their best shot in life,” said Riona.
“I told the students that no matter how many times you fall over, you get back up and keep fighting.
“I told them not to listen to the voice inside that tells them they can’t do something and that they will fail. I explained that if I had given up or listened to the doubters then I wouldn’t be standing in front of them to tell my story, I would have been in a wheelchair.”
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Following her stroke, Riona was given a two per cent chance of survival and she also “died” four times during her four-month stay in hospital.
Despite it all, she says having the stroke is the best thing that happened to her as it forced her to reassess her life and taught her who her friends were and what was really important.
“I am living the life I always wanted to now,” she said.
“I shouldn’t really be here but thankfully the doctors didn’t give up on me and so I thought, if they haven’t given up on me I can’t give up on me and I decided that I would try and be the best possible version of me every day.”
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Having been a fitness fanatic before the stroke, Riona was keen to return to the gym and was put in touch with Keith Mason, a retired rugby league star who has helped her get out of her wheelchair to start walking with crutches.
The pair struck up a friendship, which later developed into a romance
Riona said: “I am walking unaided thanks to Keith.
“I have someone in my life who believes in me and it is wonderful.”