A woman who was told she would never have use of her legs surprised her wedding guests (and her husband-to-be) by walking down the aisle.
Emma Kitson has been in a wheelchair for seven years after crushing her spine working as a gunner with the Royal Artillery.
But she stunned everyone in the wedding party by walking down the aisle on her wedding day earlier this year.
The bride even managed to surprise her husband, swimming coach, Chris Kitson, 38, who had no idea she would be approaching him on foot.
Emma, 35, joined the army as a gunner with the Royal Artillery when she was just 18 and saw active service in Iraq in 2003.
As one of a very small number of female gunners, she wanted to prove herself and “keep up with the lads”, but she had no idea the 100lb shells – AS90 bullets for tanks – she was carrying on her back were slowly damaging her spine.
She was eventually forced to leave the army as a 21-year-old, when the pain in her back became too much to bear.
Throughout her twenties, the pain got progressively worse until seven years ago doctors said they had no choice but to operate to try to repair the damage.
When Emma woke up from surgery, she couldn’t feel her left leg. She has needed to use a wheelchair ever since due to the pain she experiences while walking.
But when her partner proposed, the mum-of-three Emma, from Halifax, West Yorks was determined to spend as much of her wedding day as possible without her chair.
After putting in hours of training to strengthen her legs, she was able to make the 20ft journey to the alter without her wheelchair.
“I thought to myself 'whatever happens when I get out of that church I actually do not care.
“If I'm in a wheelchair for the rest of my life I do not care because I can actually say I've walked to Christopher and then I've walked with him out of the church, and that's everyone's dream, isn't it?”
Emma her plans a secret from everyone, including her husband-to-be, so on the day they were all surprised to see her walk into the church.
“It did help me that I walked down the aisle with my dad and my son at the side of me, and then I had my husband for support on the way back,” she says.
She also took medication to help the pain as she walked.
“I wanted to avoid being in my wheelchair for as much of the day as possible – I wanted to show my dress off as much as I could on my special day,” she added.
Though she found the training for her big day tough, Emma is no stranger to pushing herself.
She took part in last year’s 2018 Canada Invictus Games, winning three swimming gold medals and a bronze in power-lifting.
And it was at the games that she met her now husband.
The couple now live in Halifax with their daughter Charlotte, three, and Emma’s children from a previous relationship, Kiera, 14, and Archie, 10.
Despite being offered another operation Emma says she’d prefer to continue managing as she is and getting on with living a happy life.
“At least I have feeling in my legs,” she explains.
“I am now more active than I have ever been, and my children are also achieving their own sporting goals.
“Yes, I am in constant pain and on so many pain killers that I would rattle if you shook me, but I get on with my life and I enjoy it,” she continues.
“Right now I am really happy that I ended my single life walking, and started my married life walking.
“I do not see myself as an inspiration. I make my own inspiration. Everybody can be their own inspiration, you can achieve your dreams.”