Bull rider recovers from Okeechobee wreck

OKEECHOBEE — A trip to a practice pen in Okeechobee to practice bull riding changed the life of Naples cowboy Ricky Brack back in 2012.

Many cowboys would use the facility to practice a few Sundays a month at ranches to try out bulls and hone their craft.

Brack rode four bulls that day without incident, but on the fifth, the bull, known as No. 833, sprung off its front feet, smashed Ricky in the face, and knocked him unconscious. He fell to the ground and the bull, stepped on him, lost his balance, and crashed his 1,600 pounds on top of him.

Ricky Brack

Ricky Brack

Brack broke every rib in his body, punctured both lungs, three breaks in his pelvis, a broken chest cavity and tail bone, a fractured vertebrae in his neck and internal injuries.

“It is amazing how you can be on the top of the world and all of a sudden your life changes in three seconds,” he said. He was an up-and-coming bull rider. He had started the sport at age 14. He was celebrating his 24th birthday when the incident, he describes as ‘the wreck’ occurred.

Brack had suffered a broken rib aboard the bull about a year earlier and was getting back on tour from the injury when the bull stumbled and changed his life.

Brack said determination and his faith and God kept him alive that day. His friends immediately ran to his aid and called for the ambulance. He said his friends talk about the wreck all the time and are amazed at his recovery.

“They really thought they would simply comfort me at my death that day.”

Brack doesn’t remember much about it. He remembers hitting his head on the bull, falling to the ground, and laying there while his friends comforted him. All he felt was pain and he couldn’t breathe.

“I knew something had happened, but all cowboys know you need to get up and walk it off. I struggled and was helped out of the arena. I leaned against a tree and bled heavily from my lungs and my mouth.”

At Raulerson Hospital his heart stopped and doctors used a defibrillator to shock him back to life. He was transported by medical helicopter to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center for further treatment.

He said doctors gave him a 40 percent chance to survive, with little chance he would walk again.

“They came at me with a lot of negatives like this won’t happen and you can’t do this. I think just my faith in God and determination got me out of this. I was not going to let someone tell me what I could and couldn’t do.” A week later Brack was out of his bed and trying to walk.

Brack pushed himself in rehabilitation. Instead of short distances, he would walk further, and fight any attempt to limit his exercise. Brack lost about 50 pounds over 48 hours after the wreck, but slowly but surely built himself back up to a healthy weight.

“It was very hard to walk and I was like a new born giraffe. I give a lot of credit to God and my determination and pushing myself,” he said.

“The doctors said to just sit there in the chair and recuperate. You don’t get much muscle just sitting in a chair. Having friends, and exercise really helped me.” He said line dancing at the Cadillac Bar in Fort Myers helped him a lot.

Another amazing part of the story was Brack not only being able to walk again and recover, but he actually has ridden bulls since. He got on a bull just six months after the wreck.

“There was a lot of fear and I was gun shy. While I was aboard I had a flashback but I stepped off safe. It did me a lot of good. It programmed in my mind that I could still get off safe and clean and that I would be okay.”

On the one-year anniversary of the wreck, Brack pulled a third place ride at a rodeo. He has ridden between 12 and 15 bulls in the past four years.

“It was mostly to prove to myself that it could be done. I was not going to let someone tell me that I had to quit. I wanted to walk away when I was ready,” he added.

His body never recuperated 100 percent where he could get back on the circuit. He still remains active in the rodeo though. He works the event by working chutes and instructs the younger cowboys.

“I never had a mentor to show me how to ride so I learned from my own mistakes. I went to rodeo school and professional rodeo school after several years. That broke my bad habits and I learned the right way and the good way to ride,” he said.

He said he gives advice readily to the young bull riders who can benefit from his experience. He said he’d love one day to guide a younger rider to a championship.

“I have a lot of patience with the younger kids. I remember what it was like. I wasted a lot of years at practice pens. I needed someone to take me under their wing,” he added.

Brack still owes about $500,000 in medical bills since he had no health insurance plan. A couple of benefits were held for him in the Naples area and he chips away at the debt daily. He said he knows God has plans for him.

He said he hopes his ordeal will serve as motivation for others and something good can come out of it.

“Just because you have a disability or an injury doesn’t mean you can’t do something. I feel with enough determination and will, you can push yourself to do it,” he concluded.

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