Ex-army gunner walks down the aisle at dream wedding - after doctors told her she would never walk again

Chris and Emma enjoying their big day (photos and video: Your Story Studios).
Chris and Emma enjoying their big day (photos and video: Your Story Studios).

An ex-army gunner who lives in Halifax and was told she would never walk again after damaging her spine fulfilled her dream of walking down the aisle at her wedding.

Emma Kitson used to carry three 96 pound shells on her back while working as a gunner with The Royal Artillery when she was just 18.

One of a very small number of women gunners, she wanted to prove herself and 'keep up with the lads' - but she did not realise that trying to do so was compressing her spine.

She underwent serious surgery aged 28 and doctors told her she would never walk again.

But seven years later, through sheer determination, hard work and strength of mind, she walked up the aisle at St Bartholomew's Church in Armley to marry husband Chris, from Leeds.

In her own words, she fulfilled her mission to end her single life walking - and start her married life walking.

Despite all this, Emma, 35, wants to avoid the cliched 'inspirational' tag.

"I'm not an inspiration," she said. "I make my own inspiration. It's OK if people look up to me - but you should inspire yourself, you can achieve your dreams."

Emma moved to West Yorkshire after leaving the army and joined debt charity StepChange.

The pain in her back got progressively worse throughout her twenties and doctors at Leeds General Infirmary told her they had no choice but to operate.

"I wasn't prepared for what would happen," said Emma. "I was told there was only four per cent chance I wouldn't be able to walk. I woke up and couldn't feel my left leg."

She left hospital in a wheelchair and has been using one ever since.

Emma competed in the US Department of Defence's Warrior Games, designed to introduce injured service personnel and veterans to competitive sports, in 2014.

She said competing gave her the drive to change her life and leave an abusive relationship.

"It was being with the squaddies again," Emma added. "Some of them have lost limbs and it just put my life into perspective."

She met Chris, 38, a swimming coach in Ilkley, while training for the Invictus Games and he made her feel like 'life was worth living again'.

The mum-of-three competed in the 2018 Canada Invictus games and won three swimming gold medals and a bronze in power-lifting.

The couple now live in Halifax with their daughter Charlotte, aged 3, and Emma’s children from a previous relationship, Kiera, 14, and Archie, 10.

Emma had to work on her leg strength in order to complete her goal of walking up and down the aisle on August 9 - and her wedding dress was specially adapted to provide extra back support.

She added: "I thought to myself 'whatever happens when I get out of that church I actually do not care. If I'm in a wheelchair for the rest of my life I do not care because I can actually say I've walked to Christopher and then I've walked with him out of the church, and that's everyone's dream, isn't it?'".