Gena Norris Almost Died Of Gadolinium Poisoning: She Felt Like Her Body Was "On Fire"

Gena Norris Almost Died Of Gadolinium Poisoning: She Felt Like Her Body Was "On Fire"

Husband and actor, Chuck Norris stayed by her hospital bed, sleeping on the couch for five months.

Gena Norris née O’Kelly, a former model and wife of actor, Chuck Norris, went in for a normal MRI scan to test for rheumatoid arthritis. What she didn’t expect was that she would end up falling severely sick in the process. Rising up to the occasion to care for her amidst the difficult time, Chuck decided to take a break from work and stay with his wife. For five months, the martial artist slept on a couch, right by his wife. 

Norris was diagnosed with gadolinium poisoning (gadolinium is a contrast agent used during MRI scans). However, reaching the stage where doctors could make an accurate diagnosis wasn’t simple. This is because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has constantly undercut the risks of gadolinium. They believed that the agent was flushed out of the body through the kidneys in a short while, therefore it was presumed that gadolinium poisoning only occurred in people with weaker kidneys. However, this statement has been on rocky ground after both Gena Norris and Sharon Williams, who now runs a support group for gadolinium poisoning, did get poisoned and had regular renal functions. 



When people get an MRI scan, they inject gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs) to provide a clearer image of internal organs, blood vessels, and tissue. For example, GBCAs are extremely beneficial as it provides better images for a diagnosis like brain cancer. In this case, Norris had gotten three MRIs done within the week and found that the gadolinium concentration was abnormally high. She sustained long-term injuries that include cognitive deficits, body pain and burning, kidney damage, loss of energy and mobility, and difficulty breathing due to rib damage. 


For Sharon, though, it was much worse. She had gotten five MRIs under the pretense of checking why she was feeling so sick in the first place. In an attempt to understand what she was going through, she would spend around 18-20 hours every day researching her condition. After collecting a bunch of published research articles on gadolinium poisoning, she sent them to the FDA. Reaching out to them multiple times, Williams received the same answer: that they were still investigating. 


Norris had been assured that the GBCA was safe. The 59-year-old mom-of-two said she had felt different a few days later but wasn’t too concerned until a month after she had received the treatment and started to feel “extreme burning” throughout her body – the pain became debilitating. “I don’t know what it is, I’m burning. I’m burning all over. I feel like I have acid everywhere in my tissues. I’m just on fire,” she recounted in an interview with Sharyl Attkisson


She sought treatment in Reno, Nevada, before going to China to pursue alternative methods of healing to build her energy back. Norris and Chuck were in the hospital for five months. Chuck recounted how she wasn’t able to swallow and doctors had to feed her baby food just so it would go down in her esophagus. She chipped in saying that her hand was “all drawn up” close to her chest and her husband was there along with her to support her. 


After spending roughly $2 million on her treatment, the couple filed a lawsuit against the gadolinium manufacturers McKesson Corp. and the diagnostics, research, and imaging arms of the Italian healthcare company Bracco S.p.A., among others, saying the companies knew of the risks and failed to warn them, The Washington Post reported. “We are pursuing this litigation to shine a light on a problem that has not been addressed by the pharmaceutical companies that make MRI contrast agents. And we are trying to give a voice to the thousands of other victims who have been ignored,” Gena Norris said in the statement through her attorney. The lawsuit was filed in 2017 and in 2020, the couple decided to vacate the lawsuit on their own without any settlement. The FDA has put in new guidelines to notify patients of the effects and issued warnings on the adverse effects of GBCAs in 2018. 

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