Chuck Norris' wife Gena suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, but she was also diagnosed with a drug-induced disease called gadolinium deposit disease.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on June 2, 2020. It has since been updated.
Finding a partner who stays by your side in your darkest hour is not a gift everyone is blessed with. But actor and martial artist Chuck Norris' wife Gena O'Kelley, 57, is surely one of those lucky people. The 80-year-old actor wanted to do everything possible to save his wife after she had a health scare in 2013. He put his career on hold so he could be with her during one of the most painful times in her life.
Norris and O'Kelley have been married since 1998 and are parents to twins Danilee Kelly Norris and Dakota Alan Norris, 18. Norris, who had been previously married to Dianne Holechek for 30 years, is a father of five. He and Holechek divorced in 1988, and he had to wait for nine years to meet the love of his life. As the story goes, the Walker, Texas Ranger actor had been on a date with another woman in Dallas when he met O'Kelley, a supermodel and actor. The two hit it off and dated until love blossomed, and a year later they tied the knot.
Even their 23-year age gap didn't stop them from falling in love with each other. They are also devout Christians who appeared together on the talk show, Praise the Lord, in 2011, according to news.amomama.com. The Baptist-raised former supermodel joined the martial artist on his fitness show Total Gym. The couple believes in staying fit and motivate each other. "I'm trying to stay in good shape so we can one day celebrate 50 years of marriage," Norris said, according to Howcelebsmet.com.
The couple, worth more than $70 million together, encountered a major speedbump in their marriage in 2013. O'Kelley felt that there was something wrong with her body since she was feeling pain in her nerves. So, the duo sought advice from a medical expert, which required her to go through some tests like MRI, reports Veryceleb. She was then diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. She was injected with gadolinium, a chemical element as well as a heavy metal, so scans turn out better. However, the injections triggered strange reactions leading her body to feel a burning sensation all over, according to Newsweek.
Gadolinium is used as a contrast agent so medical scans turn out better but in the case of O'Kelley, it triggered a sickness not many are aware of. Norris, a devoted husband, wanted to do everything possible to save her. "I’ve given up my film career to concentrate on Gena, my whole life right now is about keeping her alive. I believe this issue is so important,” the Sidekicks actor said, as reported by Express UK.
His wife had received three injections of gadolinium in eight days, and she claimed that it made her feel that her body was "on fire." The mother-of-two continued, "[It was] as if acid had been passed through it. The burning was isolated at first, but it just kept spreading. Before this, I was a vibrant person. In fact, I’d say my health and fitness levels would have put me in the top 10% of people in the world back then."
Even though she complained, she was informed that it was impossible she had gadolinium toxicity. Later, she sought treatment at a clinic in Nevada, which recognized it. "I just lay in bed on an IV for five months and had to have round-the-clock nursing care. Chuck slept beside me on the couch and never left. I prayed that I would live to raise my children," she said. "It’s infuriating and heartbreaking—it’s a vicious, ugly secret that has been kept hidden—something Chuck and I are determined to change," she added.
The couple sued three different companies for $10 million in damages. Five years after the scans were done, the couple claimed that she had a gadolinium deposition disease caused by injections given during medical scans, according to Newsweek. Ultimately, it was decided by an expert committee that there wasn't enough evidence to prove that the chemical element would harm those whose kidneys are functioning normally. However, the claims were taken seriously and the European Medicines Agency took three gadolinium-based contrasts off the market. They claimed it was due to precautionary measures.