How Ostomy Surgery Set Tony Bell Free to Become A Professional Bullrider

Editor’s Note: Tony Bell of Harveyville, Kansas, was born with partial spina bifida and imperforate anus. Doctors removed his tailbone right after birth and gave him an ostomy and later a colostomy. Doctors at Bell’sbirth predicted he never would walk, he only had about 2% bowel control, and doctors didn’t believe he would survive past his 1 year-old birthday. According to Bell today, “All the odds were against me, and doctors told my parents that they’d better not get attached to me, because I wouldn’t be around for very long.” So, from birth,Bell had to learn to fight to survive. Part 3 of a 5-part series.

Tony Bell's parents were skeptical about his passion for bull riding because of the many surgeries and medical issues he's undergone.

Tony Bell's parents were skeptical about his passion for bull riding because of the many surgeries and medical issues he's undergone.

I’m probably the most unlikely bullrider you’ll ever meet, and I know I’ve had the most extraordinary parents anyone ever has had. With my problem of imperforate anus, the doctors told my parents I wouldn’t live to my first birthday. I had many reconstructive surgeries, including removing my tailbone and then having an ostomy that was reversed when I was 8 years old. The doctors couldn’t decide if I had enough bowel control to be able to live and function on my own. I wore diapers until I was 8. I was totally incontinent.  

Finally the doctors gave me an option. “You can wear diapers the rest of your life, or you can have an ostomy surgery.” I really didn’t want to have another surgery, so I fought tooth and toenail not to have the ostomy surgery. I’d spent almost every weekend at the hospital, and then I went once a month and then every 3 months as a child. However, with some prodding from my folks, I had the ostomy surgery, and today I’m really glad I did.

The ostomy surgery set me free. After the surgery I could spend the night with friends. Although I went to the bathroom in a bag attached to my stomach, the freedom I got with this surgery was worth the inconvenience of the bag. After the ostomy surgery gave me my freedom back, my folks asked me what I’d like to do with my new freedom. I looked them square in the eye and said, “I want to be a bullrider.”

My family came from a long line of farmers and ranchers. My dad, Marvin Bell, always wanted to be a bullrider, but he was too big at 6’4” and weighing 290 pounds to be one. He played football at Coffeyville Community College and had planned to play for Kansas State. That was when 4 year colleges still played 2 year colleges. When he was playing against Texas A&M, he broke his back. His back was fused together, and he became an industrial arts teacher and a farmer. Even today when the weather acts up, he hardly can walk due to his injuries. One of mother’s friend’s son liked to ride bulls and had an arena in his backyard with bucking chutes and bucking barrels. So, I got hooked on becoming a bullrider.

Finally my mom agreed to allow me to attend a Fellowship of Christian Cowboys’ Rodeo Bible Camp, hoping that going to that one camp would discourage me from becoming a bullrider.  However, attending the camp had the opposite effect. I started trying to ride saddle broncs, but I didn’t like riding the horses as well as I did riding the bulls. The journey my parents went through while I was doing all these things probably was as tough if not more tough than my becoming a bullrider. When I first told them that I wanted to be a bullrider, my mom said, “Absolutely not. We’ve fought all of our lives and your life to keep you alive and keep you safe. There’s no way we’ll let you participate in one of the most dangerous sports in the world.”

This camp made Tony Bell's passion for bullriding stronger.

This camp made Tony Bell's passion for bullriding stronger.

But I was holding back a secret weapon. My parents had told me after my ostomy surgery that I could choose one thing I truly wanted to do more than anything else in the world, and that they would support me 100%. So, I reminded them of their promise. I knew I had them. Every day I would ask to become a bullrider, and my mom began to set up tasks for me to accomplish to prove I wanted to be a bullrider. For instance, she said, “You’ve got to keep up with your chores, you’ve got to start running and exercising, and you’ve got to prove to me that you can be physically fit enough to climb on a bull and survive.” I ran every day, did all my chores, didn’t talk back and tried to be as perfect a child as I could be. I was willing to do anything to ride bulls.

My parents thought that by sending me to this rodeo camp that they would satisfy their obligation to let me become anything I wanted to be. After the rodeo camp ended, they thought I’d give up my idea of being a bullrider. They were praying that this bullriding idea was a fad, and I wouldn’t like it. So, I rode my first steer before my tenth birthday, and I was hooked on being a bullrider. I went to the rodeo camps every summer and started riding in the Little Britches rodeos and then high school rodeos.

Tony Bell would do anything to keep riding these guys!

Tony Bell would do anything to keep riding these guys!

Then when I went to Fort Hays State University, I joined the rodeo team there before I started riding on the pro level on the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) circuit. I rode professionally for 2-1/2-years before I had a really bad wreck that ended my bullriding career. While I was riding professionally, I also was riding college rodeo. So, I rode in about 50 rodeos a year.

I was hurt pretty bad, especially in the college rodeos. I soon learned that the bulls we rode in college rodeos were called headhunters. These bulls didn’t just want to throw you off their backs, they also wanted to run over you and hurt you. When you bucked off of one of those bulls, if you didn’t get up and run to the side of the arena and climb the fence quickly, those bulls intended to hurt you. I broke my arm and my leg and got hurt pretty bad in college rodeos.

Next: Tony Bell’s Career Ending Bull Ride

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com

About UroMed Catheters
Headquartered in Suwanee, GA [a suburb of Atlanta], UroMed is one of the nation’s leading providers of single-use catheters, urological and disposable medical supplies, including intermittent catheters, closed system catheters, condom catheters, pediatric catheters and continence care products. UroMed is nationally accredited for Medicare reimbursement and most state Medicaid plans, and partners with private health insurance providers and health plans to provide patients with single-use catheters, catheter kits and incontinence products. UroMed also has seven staffed regional offices located in Boston, MA; Columbia, SC; Jacksonville, FL; Dallas, TX; Carlsbad, CA; Knoxville, TN; Richmond, VA; and Baton Rouge, LA; enabling next-day delivery after a customer’s initial medical supply order. For more information, please visit http://www.uromed.com or call 1-800-841-1233.

One Response to How Ostomy Surgery Set Tony Bell Free to Become A Professional Bullrider

  1. Pingback: Tony Bell’s Worst Hospital Stay Came From Bull Riding, Not Spina Bifida « UroMed Catheter Health Blog

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