This 16 Year Old Girl Got Married. Her Reason Both Surprised and Touched Us.

  • Leeds Schoolgirl Iona Lindley suffers from cystic fibrosis
  • Pleaded with parents to be allowed to marry sweetheart Laurie Kesteven
  • Life-threatening genetic disorder often leaves her gasping for breath
  • Some sufferers do not reach 30


She was barely 16. He was 18 and about to go to university.

And despite objections from their families, sweethearts Iona Lindley and Laurie Kesteven were determined to marry – while they still had time.

For schoolgirl Iona has cystic fibrosis.

The life-threatening genetic disorder often leaves her gasping for breath and some sufferers do not reach 30.

She pleaded with her parents for permission, saying: ‘We’re in love, I don’t know how long I’ve got to live and I didn’t think I’d ever get the chance to marry.’

Laurie had to persuade his family that they were not too young and that, with the help of Iona’s mother, he could care for Iona while also finishing his studies.

To the couple’s joy, both sets of relatives quickly overcame their reservations about the marriage.

Dressed in white, Iona walked down the aisle at the South Parade Baptist Church in Headingley, Leeds, nervously clutching her bouquet over her face to hide her tears of joy from the 125 guests.

At the reception, she and Laurie danced to a version of the Coldplay hit Fix You, sung by a friend.

The new Mrs Kesteven and her husband then enjoyed a one-week honeymoon on the Greek island of Rhodes.

It was the first time Iona had been abroad without her parents and needed meticulous planning to ensure she could take oxygen with her on the flight, in case she needed help with her breathing.

Now they are planning their first anniversary celebrations and have decided to tell their story for the first time to help raise awareness of cystic fibrosis.

The pair got to know each other after they began chatting on BlackBerry Messenger, and in March 2012 arranged to meet at a fast food restaurant.

Iona was nervous about telling Laurie about her condition, but after three weeks plucked up the courage.

He took it in his stride and they continued dating, often meeting in a park near their homes in Leeds.

She nervously told her mother Julie Iwanicki, 47, who is divorced from her father, that she had a boyfriend.

Iona told Laurie how much she wanted to experience marriage in whatever time she had left. He understood and, just nine months after they met, he proposed.

She accepted instantly and they married on May 17 last year.

Iona, now 17, whose condition has deteriorated to the extent she gets exhausted going up stairs, said: ‘I knew I was in love. I felt so comfortable with Laurie.

‘It was really important to me to get married because I don’t know how long I have left. My mind does end up thinking about the future but I try not to let it worry me. I just wouldn’t enjoy my life.’

Laurie, now 19, is doing a degree in physical education and sports development at Leeds Trinity University and is considering a career as a paramedic.

‘There’s no point getting upset, you just have to enjoy life as it is,’ he said. ‘Everyone was shocked when we said we wanted to marry, but now they are supportive.’

Mrs Iwanicki said: ‘Iona has had a horrible life because of CF – she has suffered so much, missed most of the joy, freedom and spontaneity that kids have.

‘They wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, however long that may be. I think that’s beautiful, especially when you see how many other teenagers behave these days. I just want them to be happy while they can.’

Iona, who needs oxygen, an array of medications and frequent hospital visits, has continued to live at her family’s home, where her mother can provide the care she needs. Laurie often stays over but still has a room at his mother’s home.

Despite her health, Iona is taking A-levels in photography and art and also attends dance classes.
‘I feel like normal when I’m dancing,’ she said. ‘I go blue in the face but I’m determined to do it.’

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