Old School Americana & Nostalgia


Chuck Norris Retired From the Screen to Save His Sick Wife

Chuck Norris Retired From the Screen to Save His Sick Wife

In 2013, Chuck Norris retired from his entertainment career to save his wife after she had a painful, near-death reaction to a medical treatment.

Norris’ wife, Gena O’Kelley, suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors diagnosed her with the autoimmune disease in 2013 by giving her an MRI with gadolinium, which is a dye injection that helps pinpoint issues with specific organs, blood vessels, or tissues.

The former supermodel had three gadolinium injections in eight days. Express reported in 2017 that after the first injection, her entire body felt like it was “on fire.” And the pain only worsened.

“[It was] as if acid had been passed through it,” O’Kelley explained. “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.”

Initially, specialists claimed O’Kelley wasn’t having a reaction to gadolinium. A second opinion at a clinic in Nevada revealed the opposite, and she went into intensive treatment. Chuck Norris immediately put her life first and quit acting.

“I’ve given up my film career to concentrate on Gena. My whole life right now is about keeping her alive,” he told the publication at the time. “I believe this issue is so important.”

Chuck Norris Spent Years Attempting to Prove His Wife’s Condition

O’Kelley explained that she was hooked to IV and required “round-the-clock nursing care” for five months. She couldn’t leave her bed the entire time, and Norris never left her side.

“Chuck slept beside me on the couch and never left,” she shared. “I prayed that I would live to raise my children. It’s infuriating and heartbreaking—it’s a vicious, ugly secret that has been kept hidden—something Chuck and I are determined to change.”

At the time of the Express interview, O’Kelley still suffered from burning nerve pain and kidney problems. Years later, Norris attempted to prove that she had a gadolinium deposition disease. An expert committee ultimately ruled that it couldn’t find enough evidence to substantiate that claim. However,  the European Medicines Agency pulled three gadolinium-based contrasts from the market as a direct result of O’Kelley’s experience.

The couple ended up suing several gadolinium manufacturers, including Italy-based Bracco. However, they dropped their $10 million suit in 2020, according to Radiology Business. Neither O’Kelley nor Norris have updated fans on O’Kelley’s condition since.