After suffering a massive stroke that left her paralyzed from the waist down in March 2015, Riona Kelly never expected that she would be happy again.
Still cooped up in her hospital bed just five days after the stroke, Riona’s husband, Richard, of 14 years told her he wanted a divorce after learning his wife would never have use of her legs again.
“After he asked me for a divorce I was left completely alone,” Riona says.
When told it would take months, if not years, to recover, Riona admits she felt like giving up. “I knew I had to be strong for my children,” she says. It’s the only motivation she had to get her through.
“The first time I went out in a wheelchair I thought everyone was looking at me, I hated it and hated myself,” she says. “If someone had given me the choice I would have ended my life, I didn’t want to live anymore.”
In January of 2016, Riona put a post out on Facebook looking for a personal trainer that could help her gain some strength back, and friends suggested Keith Mason.
The former rugby player helped Riona learn how to walk again on her own, and the two stayed in touch after their sessions, which led to a budding relationship.
Riona said she was shocked that a “gorgeous rugby player” would want to date a “disabled woman” like her.
But alas, Keith says Riona inspires him. He encourages her every day and understands her pain and triumphs.
“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.”
In addition to Riona’s four children, Keith also has a 5-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.
Following her stroke, Riona says she felt like life was over. But looking back now, it was just the beginning. She’s found love, and discovered a new passion, after landing her first TV commercial with Models of Diversity.
She’s also completed two marathons with the help of her wheelchair, which she now only uses when traveling long distances.
“Looking back, going through what I did was the best thing to ever happen to me.”