Inspirational girl,18, won beauty contest six months after suffering a paralysing strokeWales News Service

A teenager who was left wheelchair-bound after a massive stroke has been crowned a beauty queen.

Just six months earlier, Emily Shephard, 18, from Cwmbran, South Wales, was paralysed and had to learn to walk again. She lost control of the left side of her body and couldn't even smile - but just months later she won the top prize in a beauty pageant she'd entered before she had the stroke.

She had applied to enter the beauty contest before flying to America for a 10-week placement as a summer camp volunteer. As she was walking back to her cabin in the wilds of Minnesota, she started seeing bright yellow and blue dots in front of her eyes.

She recalled: "My left leg went tingly and I fell to the ground. I couldn't get back up because I was all numb down my side and I couldn't see.

"When the doctors said I'd had a stroke I was in shock - I thought it was something that only happened to older people."

She needed specialist physiotherapy before returning to the UK, but back home in Wales, she received a letter saying she had qualified for the finals of the beauty contest.

She said: "I had completely forgotten. I just screamed."

Even though she was frail and needed walking aids to get around she was determined to go ahead with her bid to become Miss Torfaen and qualify for Miss Wales. And she was stunned when the judges gave her the title saying she had 'captivating eyes and smile'.

Emily said: "I can't believe that I went from being bed bound to strutting my stuff on the catwalk in Miss Wales in March. I realise I am very lucky and have not been as badly affected by the stroke as some people are."

"Winning the beauty pageant gave me the chance to show what I can achieve and the boost I needed. It shows that bad things can happen to you but with the right attitude and a bit of luck you can overcome anything."

Emily still suffers some weakness on her left side and pain in her limbs still and attends a support group run by the Stroke Association.

The charity's Lowri Griffiths said: "Emily's story is incredibly moving and it is wonderful that she is making such a good recovery.

"Her experiences show that stroke is not just something that happens to older people, it can happen to anyone at any time."