Chuck Norris is undoubtedly one of the most famous men in the entertainment industry. Known for his impeccable skills as a martial artist, as well as his work as an actor, producer and screenwriter, Norris is an unstoppable force. His best work, though, is his role as a husband.

Norris met his wife Gena O’Kelley in 1997, and the couple quickly moved forward with the next stage of their relationship when they got married just one year later. They went on to have a pair of twins together, as well as having other children from previous relationships. It was clear, though, that Norris and O’Kelley had a romance for the ages, despite their astonishing 23-year age difference.
Norris has had a very busy and popular career starring in a handful of shows and movies, such as “Walker, Texas Ranger,” “The Way of the Dragon,” “Invasion U.S.A.” and “Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos.” As an expert in various martial arts systems, Norris was able to implement these skills and use them to become a highly successful action star. However, he put all of that to the side when his wife became sick.

For a few years during the 2010s, Norris put his career on the back burner while he tended to O’Kelley, who struggled with some very serious medical issues that all stemmed from having multiple MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) taken. Norris stayed by her side through thick and thin, and together the pair weathered the storm and have even gone on to spread awareness about what happened. Read on to find out more about this emotional story.

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Norris and O’Kelley first met in 1997 after she completed a small role in a television series he was in. The action star later decided to invite her to Dallas, Texas, so the two could spend some quality time together getting to know each other. Their relationship quickly turned romantic and the happy couple tied the knot just one year later.

The pair have a beautiful relationship that has lasted the test of time and all of life’s obstacles that have been thrown their way. But their union was tested greatly when in 2013, O’Kelley had some major medical complications that resulted in her needing help from her husband. Without hesitation, Norris put his career on hold and tended to his wife’s every need.

The issues surrounding O’Kelley’s health all started when she had to do a series of MRI scans and contrast imaging. For the scans, she was required to receive an injection of a type of dye that served as a contrast agent. This method allows tissues, blood vessels and organs to be seen better by radiologists and is a fairly common procedure. O’Kelley asked her medical practitioners if she was able to take all of the necessary scans at once but was told she’d have to have three separate scans. This also meant that she’d have to receive three injections of the dye.

However, something went wrong when O’Kelley was given the injections that contained gadolinium, a type of heavy metal with magnetic properties, which resulted in her becoming very sick.

Chuck Norris, Gena O’Kelley, Danilee Kelly, Dakota Alan (2012), (Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/Getty images)
Immediately after the first injection, O’Kelley had nerve pain, muscle weakness and brain fog. She explained:

“Within hours after the first jab I felt like my whole body was on fire — as if acid had been passed through it. The burning was isolated at first, but it just kept spreading.”

She grew increasingly worried about the contrast agent but had been told that it would be out of her system within a few hours, and was instructed to drink water to help get it out.

Caring For His Wife

Despite being told by doctors it would be fine, Norris began to realize that something was seriously wrong, and he tried to figure out what to do next.

“I can take her anywhere in the world, I’m blessed enough to have the money to do that, but where do I take her?” he asked.

Finally, he was able to reach a doctor from Nevada. When the doctor told Norris that his wife’s condition was critical, the actor dropped all of his work projects at the time and put O’Kelley and her health first. Norris didn’t leave O’Kelley’s side for five months and slept on the couch next to her as she focused on her recovery.

As doctors ran tests, it turned out that the gadolinium hadn’t left O’Kelley’s body after a few hours, as she had been told it should have, but instead they found staggering levels of the element had remained. She explained in an interview with Full Measure:

“This is in the danger zone and you will see that I stayed at the level for a very, very long time.”

Chuck Norris (2012), (Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty images)
In 2006 the FDA found a “strong association between gadolinium contrast agents and NSF.” NSF (nephrogenic systemic fibrosis) is a disease that causes thickening and tightening of the organs and skin and is deadly. By 2007, the FDA had put a “black box” warning on gadolinium for people with weak kidneys, as they wouldn’t be able to eliminate the element from their bodies. However, O’Kelley didn’t fall into that group either. That’s why she and Norris are using their influence to fight for better regulation of gadolinium.

Back in 2017, the actor reflected on what it was like during the time she was sick.

“Well it’s the helpless feeling, you know ’cause I’m kind of a take-charge guy, and then here I have something where I cannot do anything and it was horrifying,” he said, as per WND. “And I just thank God that we were able to weather it and that she did get better and I got my wife back.”

He added to Full Measure:

“Everyone that takes gadolinium is not going to get sick,” Norris said. “It’s ones that are sensitive like O’Kelley. I’ve taken them and I’ve never gotten sick. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do something about the other people that are getting sick from the gadolinium.”

Norris has spent over $2 million on O’Kelley’s treatments and he’s even given up his career in show business to focus on campaigning. Since O’Kelley’s illness, Norris hasn’t appeared in a movie and has had very little work in television as well, with only three minor appearances in recent years. He told Good Health, as reported by Express:

“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.”

Chuck Norris, Gena Norris (2009), (Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
Realizing Something Was Wrong

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