Getty Images - Youtube.com/KPIX CBS SF Bay Area
Source: Getty Images - Youtube.com/KPIX CBS SF Bay Area

Chuck Norris Gave up Career to Help Bedridden Wife Regain Her Health despite Feeling 'Helpless'

Titi Dokubo
Jul 03, 2022
04:00 P.M.
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When Gena O'Kelley, Chuck Norris's wife, got sick, the famous action film star felt helpless as her illness progressed, and he gave up his movie career to look after her and help nurse her back to health. Here is a look into their life and relationship.


In the 1950s, Chuck Norris was in the US Air Force, and during that period, he started studying martial arts in Korea. On his return home, he opened more than 30 karate studios, and in the 1970s, he switched to movies.

He became the first man in the Western Hemisphere to obtain an 8th degree Black Belt Grand Master rank in 1997, marking a significant milestone in martial arts. It was also the same year he met the former model, Gena O'Kelley.

Chuck Norris and Gena O'Kelley at The Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony by The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences on June 26, 2004 | Source: Getty Images

Chuck Norris and Gena O'Kelley at The Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony by The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences on June 26, 2004 | Source: Getty Images


Norris and O'Kelley met in Dallas in 1997 while on a dinner date. The actor was so impressed with her that he got the courage to ask her out despite being a shy person.

They quickly became friends, and despite the 23-year age difference between them, O'Kelley and Norris married on November 28, 1998, the same period in which he was filming "Walker, Texas Ranger."


Over two decades after they first met, Norris still says O'Kelley is the love of his life. On their 20th anniversary, he thanked her for being not only the best wife he could ask for but the most incredible mom and his best friend.

The couple, who had children from previous marriages, welcomed twins on August 30, 2001, three years after their wedding. Their fraternal twins are son Dakota Alan and daughter Danilee Kelley.



Norris, who had praised O'Kelley for being a great stepmom, had three children from his previous marriage to Dianne Holechek, whom he divorced in 1989 after over three decades of marriage.

O'Kelley is also responsible for Norris's godly habits as she helped him start reading the Bible and praying regularly. She would read the Bible every morning, and soon enough, she got Norris to join her, and it became a routine for them.

When O'Kelley is not busy with family life, she once described herself as a sportswoman as she spent a lot of time in the gym. She also sees herself as a healthy woman who has been fit all her life.


So, when she got sick, it was unexpected. It was a nightmare for O'Kelley to have had anything like that happen to her. She said:

"They poisoned the wrong lady, when they poisoned me."

O'Kelley became sick after going in for an MRI scan ordered with contrast. The MRI was to evaluate her rheumatoid arthritis, and she needed to be scanned in multiple areas, which they could not do simultaneously.


Once they informed her that she needed to return to the hospital for the concluding parts of her scan, O'Kelley revealed that she asked the medical practitioners if taking the contrast injections was safe, and they assured her it was.

Within eight days, she had three scans and started noticing something wrong. She said it began with an intense burning sensation inside her body which felt like someone had poured acid on her tissues.

Over the next few weeks, O'Kelley made multiple ER visits, and she said that the burning sensation was spreading throughout her body with each new visit.



Besides the burning sensations, O'Kelley also experienced rib pain, breathing difficulties, full-body tremors, and joint pain. One day as she got out of the bathroom, Norris knew things were worse. He said:

"I saw death in her eyes. I saw her dying and I said you know I've got to do something. 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, it was horrifying."

Doctors checked her for everything from ALS to cancer, Parkinson's, and multiple sclerosis, but she tested negative for all of them. O'Kelley began a desperate search and discovered that the contrast used for the MRI contained a toxic heavy metal called gadolinium.


Despite doctors' assurances, Norris suspected something was wrong and tried to figure out what to do next. He said:

"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 could not bear the thoughts of seeing his wife suffer, and for a man who had built a reputation for being harsh, gritty, and quite masculine in his movies, he showed a thoughtful and compassionate side.


To give his wife the best care, Norris had to quit his career to concentrate on helping O'Kelley get back to life. He said:

"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."

Norris found an integrative doctor in Reno who gave O'Kelley an effective and targeted treatment for her condition. She later revealed that she was in bed on an IV for five months and needed round-the-clock nursing care.


O'Kelley was never alone as Norris slept beside her on the couch through it all and read 17 books. He was glad and thankful to God that they could weather it and his wife got better.

The couple later sued several healthcare companies for the chemical used during the MRI scans. In the lawsuit, Norris said the contrast allegedly poisoned his wife in late 2012.



The "Sons of Thunder" actor now lives on his Lone Wolf Ranch with his wife and twins, whom they raise together. Also, on their ranch, they run their C-Force water production center.

In 2015, their twins passed their test for the 2nd-degree black belt. The family posed for a picture with the rest of the testing board members to celebrate.


In 2021, Norris took to Twitter to celebrate the twins' birthday as he called them amazing young adults. He said:

"Happy Birthday to our twins Danilee & Dakota. There are no words to describe how much we love them and how thankful we are for the amazing young adults they have grown up to be."

In addition to spending time with the twins, Norris loves to spend time with his wife on the ranch. For his 81st birthday in 2021, his Navasota neighbors joined him on his property to celebrate with his family.

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