LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – An Arkansas woman is breaking barriers in her recovery and learning to walk again after she broke her back during a rodeo last year.  

Strapped in and hooks in place, Brianna Sortomme puts one foot in front of the other. It’s a milestone she thought she may never reach.

“A bull came through and I was in the wrong place wrong time,” Sortomme said.

July 4th 2022, she was in a rodeo event when that bull came barreling right at her.

“Plowed right into me and threw me in the air,” Sortomme said.

When she hit the ground, she knew something was wrong.

“When I get to that point of trying to throw my leg over and suddenly I can’t feel my legs I was like ‘oh no this is my worst fear,'” Sortomme said.

She suffered a spinal cord injury and said the prognosis from doctors was that she would probably never walk again. Fast forward nine months later, she’s making great strides in her recovery.

“Now, I am actually able to walk with a walker,” Sortomme said.  “It’s not graceful but I’m getting there.”

In physical therapy at Baptist Health Rehabilitation Institute, she uses a machine called Lokomat.

“We control the speed. We control how much weight is being put through the legs based on thier body weight. We control the angles from the hips to the knees to the ankles as far as how much they are allowed to move to really help facilitate the good walking mechanics,” Baptist Health Rehab Physical Therapist Mikel Thacker said.

Thacker said it’s helped Sortomme tremendously.

“You can do thousands of steps in the machine here whereas you’re doing a couple hundred maybe and the quality may not be as good when you’re outside,” Thacker said.

He said the goal is to get her walking on her own fully.

“She’s made a lot of good progress so she’s leading towards that,” Thacker said.

Keeping a positive attitude through it all, Sortomme said she just takes it day by day and step by step.

“All I can do is the best I can and try to move forward and get better and so far that’s worked for me,” Sortomme said.