By: Justin Felisko
January 13, 2016
DENVER – Bonner Bolton underwent surgery at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, on Tuesday for a fractured C-2 vertebra and is expected to return to bull riding in four to six months, according to Dr. Tandy Freeman.
Bolton expressed his gratitude to all of the doctors, nurses and PBR sports medicine team members that have assisted him since he sustained the injury Sunday afternoon at Allstate Arena. He broke his neck after landing on his head following an 86.75-point ride on Cowboy Up.
The 28-year-old also offered his thanks to all of the fans that have reached out to him since the injury through his Instagram account on late Tuesday night.
“Praising God for the angels in my life and his hand that is guiding me to this moment in my life and seen me through when I thought my last moments (were) here on earth were Sunday at PBR Chicago,” Bolton wrote alongside a video of his injury. “With a broken neck, C2 fracture in my vertebrae, I was blessed to have the best doctors working on me this week and the best team of nurses anyone could ask for. It is been nothing but a life changer for the best for me and I know only good things will come from this.
“I love you all and thank you all for those who are praying for me.”
Bolton was released from the hospital on Wednesday morning and is returning home to Texas.
The second-year Built Ford Tough Series pro was leading the Chicago Invitational at the time of the injury after beginning the weekend 2-for-2.
Bolton began 2016 with high expectations after finishing 2015 28th in the world standings.
Fellow riders Douglas Duncan, Tanner Byrne and Stetson Lawrence visited Bolton at the hospital Sunday night after the conclusion of the Chicago Invitational.
“It was the least we could do,” Byrne said Tuesday at the Denver BlueDEF Tour event. “I know I wouldn’t want to be alone in a hospital bed in Chicago by myself.”
Coincidentally, Cowboy Up is the same bull that Sean Willingham sustained his broken neck (C-7) last season.
Willingham said in Denver that Bolton needs to stay positive in the coming days, weeks and months.
The 34-year-old rode Smoke Wagon for 86 points Tuesday as he continues his own return to bull riding after missing three months last season because of his broken neck.
“Man, you just have to stay focused,” Willingham said. “Keep in mind that this is bull riding and this is what you want to do for a living. You have to dig deep down inside to come back from an injury like that and ride these bulls. It is always going to be in the back of your head, ‘Hey, I broke my neck.’
“You just have to stay positive and don’t let it get you down. Any injury a bull rider has you just have to remember there is always time to recover and just let it heal and come back healthy. You will be stronger as ever.”
At the time of Bolton’s injury, there were some fears that the up-and- comer in the PBR would be forced to retire and may be paralyzed.
Bolton is calling his recovery, which still has ways to go, a miracle.
“When I left the arena Sunday, I was paralyzed from the neck down, the same injury as Christopher Reeves who played superman that ended up in a wheelchair,” Bolton continued in his post. “I am proud to say that my God performed a miracle and I am able to move my whole entire body now and the doctor (says) I will be able to ride again as soon as this year. I am truly blessed forever..:, #blessedforever.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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