It’s heartbreaking that I still can’t pick my kids up properly

Storm Keating has just found out she’s unlikely to ever regain full use of her right leg because of damage caused by a severe spinal condition that developed earlier this year.

Yet despite such a devastating prognosis, the upbeat Aussie, wife of Boyzone’s Ronan Keating, says having a partially-numb leg is a “small price to pay” because she could have been paralysed in both legs and have lost control of her bowel and bladder if the condition hadn’t been detected so early.

Instead of dwelling on the leg problems left by the rare spinal stenosis cauda equina syndrome, which developed from a prolapsed disc in March this year and led to emergency surgery, mum-of-two Storm is more cut up about the fact that she still can’t properly pick up her 14-month-old daughter Coco – who the family have affectionally named ‘Baby Monster’ because of her feisty personality.

“It was really difficult as a mum, especially with Coco being so little,” she says. “That tactileness and affection that you show, being able to hold them, even just giving her a bottle and putting her into bed – I still can’t do that, I can’t deadlift her down into the cot. It’s quite heartbreaking and I struggled with that.

“It was one of the hardest things I found, not being able to just do what I would normally do and be a mummy and hold my children.”

Ronan Keating and Storm Keating attending the 9th Annual Global Gift Gala held at the Rosewood Hotel, London in 2018. Picture: David Parry/PA.

She is getting better though, and says she’s hoping to be able to pick Coco up properly “really, really soon”. She’s now allowed to put Coco on to her hips if she’s already elevated on a couch or highchair, and says: “That’s amazing – it’s the best feeling in the whole wide world, and I’ve been able to do that for the last three weeks.”

The fashion designer, who married Ronan six years ago and also has “super-chilled” son Cooper, aged three, with him, only discovered she was likely to have a permanent problem with her right leg a few weeks ago, when her spinal therapist told her he thinks her nerves can’t fire through the scar tissue in her right leg, which is why she doesn’t have power in it.

“He hopes I should be able to regain 70-80% of my leg,” she says.

“I’m walking and I’m doing fantastic, I’m moving about really quite normally – this right leg’s the only thig that’s really sticking with me at the minute. It means I can’t have a normal walking gait yet and I can’t jog or run or things like that because my right leg is quite dead – there’s no real power going into it just yet.

“The issue with cauda equina syndrome is once it sets in, it’s paralysis of the legs and the ability to use your bowel and bladder,” she explains. “It gets progressively worse and worse as the paralysis sets in, so they got me in nice and quickly and were able to miraculously get me back to this amazing condition that I’m in now, which is close to normal. But the chances are that I’ll never regain full, 100% use of my right leg again.

“We’re trying to work it out – it seems that’s possibly the downside. But do you know what, it’s a small price to pay – I’m walking and I’m doing lots of normal activities again and I’m going to live a normal life. It’s a bit of numbness and I don’t have full power in my right leg, but I’m cool with that.

“I’m very, very, very, very lucky. I just feel utterly grateful that I had the outcome that I did – it could have been so very different.”

Ronan Keating and Storm Keating attending the 9th Annual Global Gift Gala held at the Rosewood Hotel, London in 2018. Picture: David Parry/PA.

Ronan Keating and Storm Keating attending the 9th Annual Global Gift Gala held at the Rosewood Hotel, London in 2018. Picture: David Parry/PA.

Storm, 39, has had a great deal of help from her family during her ordeal, and can’t praise her famous husband enough. “Ronan’s been home the whole time – I honestly don’t know how we’d have done having a second child otherwise.  Covid in some ways was a saving grace because it meant he was home to really help support me in the household and with the kids, so we’re a real juggling act like that.

“He’s brilliant –  he’s fantastic with the kids and fantastic in the kitchen –  he’s fantastic with everything, to be fair. He cooks, he cleans, he changes nappies, he makes us all laugh – he’s just adorable. He’s  such a great dad and such a great husband – I can’t fault the guy, I’m so lucky.”

She’s also lucky to have an incredibly positive mindset, and it’s clear this working mum isn’t going to let her health problems defeat her. She’s speaking from Portugal, where she’s on holiday with Ronan and the kids, but is still working from there, helping to promote a voice search feature on Sky Q which allows children to use catchphrases and character names to call up their favourite TV shows and films.

Storm admits she was still working in hospital, and explains: “I haven’t really stopped, to be honest – even when I was in hospital I was still working from my hospital bed. I had a couple of days off after the actual surgery, because I think I realised my condition was a lot more severe than I’d allowed myself to believe. But I’m back to it, full-time, busy busy.

“Like a lot of families right now, we’re picking up the pieces after quite a challenging year.”

Storm Keating with Cooper and Coco

Storm Keating with Cooper and Coco

What’s also been challenging for Storm is balancing work and the kids, and the guilt she feels as a result.

“One of the things I’ve probably found the hardest is working full-time and trying to be there for the kids as much as I possibly can,” she admits. “But I’m so under pressure with work, you get this parent guilt. Through the pandemic Cooper was always coming up to me saying ‘Mummy can we play this, or do that…’, and I was always having to say I was sorry but I had to work, and mummy had to do this or mummy had to do that.

“Parent guilt is suffocating – I still find it really tough. Of course what I’d really love to do is spend my time playing with the kids, so it’s been quite difficult, but it’s also been quite wonderful in that we haven’t had to travel as much as we used to, meaning we’re spending a lot of time at home cooking and doing house activities, ball games, taking the kids swimming now, things like that.

“There’s been pros and there’s been cons, and when we’ve had the cons we’ve just had to try and focus as much as possible on the pros to get us through.”

Overall, though, and despite the problems of the last year, Storm absolutely loves being a mum. “Oh my goodness, it’s the greatest blessing and greatest pleasure of my life,” she says. “Of course it’s not always easy, but I feel very, very grateful to be a mummy.”

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