BILLINGS — Kody Lostroh was scheduled to ride in Billings on Thursday night at the PRCA Yellowstone River Roundup.
But not liking his draw, the bull rider from Ault, Colorado, opted to stay home.
Turning out at a rodeo is not a story. It happens all the time.
However, Lostroh having the choice whether or not to ride his bull is a story.
It’s a story of a man, a husband, the father of two young daughters coming perilously close to having his future taken away from him.
For more than a decade, Lostroh was one of the most successful and popular competitors in the Professional Bull Riders.
A 10-time qualifier for the PBR World Finals, he had reached the pinnacle of his profession with a world title in 2009.
Having turned pro at 18, Lostroh earned more than $3.2 million during his PBR career, which still ranks among the organization’s top 10 money earners.
But having climbed the mountain, Lostroh looked around and wanted something else.
At the PBR season-opening event in Baltimore in 2015, his passions shifted.
“I decided I needed a break,” said Lostroh from his home in Colorado last week. “Maybe not from riding bulls. I just wanted to try something different.”
He thought about joining the PRCA and trying to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo.
And he also now had two young daughters — Odessa and Sheridan — at home. “It was getting tougher to pull myself away,” Lostroh said.
Two months later, the decision was made for him.
Trying to live a normal life, not riding bulls, would become a priority.
Lostroh was in Oklahoma when he was struck.
“All of a sudden, my eyesight went bad, I couldn’t stand and I couldn’t drive,” he recalled. “Luckily, I had someone who could drive me home.
“When I got home, I slept for a week. I felt like I was drunk all the time.”
When open, his eyes would shake constantly. “And wouldn’t stop,” Lostroh said. “It was kind of a hazy deal. I couldn’t focus. My eyes wouldn’t stay still.”
Doctors ran a battery of tests without being able to find the cause. They initially thought he had a stroke.
Lostroh endured eye and physical therapy. The gains were small.
“There were some real challenges and real struggles,” he continued. “I admit, I was scared at times. It was tough to deal with. There was not a day that didn’t go by where I wasn’t thinking about riding bulls.
“I thought one day I would wake up from all this and be fine.”
But he wasn’t.
Doctors finally found the problem. A tumor had wrapped itself around his carotid artery.
Lostroh spent five days in a Denver hospital. Doctors first used foam to block the veins that fed in the tumor. A microscopic piece broke off and went up into his brain. “They went up and got it,” Lostroh said.
“For the surgery, they literally kill you, they put you in a paralytic state,” he added. “Your heart and lungs are kept going by machines so you don’t have any involuntary movements.”
During one stretch, Lostroh had to lie flat on his back for 30 consecutive hours. Doctors cut him from his ear to his shirt line.
“I was truly nervous going into the surgery,” he said. “And so thankful to come out. It was a tough deal. But I know a lot of people who have had to go through much worse stuff.”
Lostroh had more therapy to regain his balance and eye sight. He spent a lot of time working the ranch he owns east of Fort Collins with his wife Candace. “We run a few cows,” Lostroh said.
He began riding bulls again after the Fourth of July this summer. He is currently fifth in the PRCA Mountain States Circuit standings and recently won at Douglas, Wyoming.
“I still have a few more goals,” Lostroh said of his bull riding. “I’m just not sure what I want to do yet. Honestly, I don’t like being away from home that long any more. I might just go to a few rodeos here and there.”
The return to competition has brought another issue.
“I sure don’t feel any older,” Lostroh said with a laugh. He turns 32 in September. “I don’t think of myself that way. But I don’t know many people at the rodeos anymore.”
His immediate plans include meeting with the PBR competition committee to see if he can help in anyway.”
And recovery is still a process.
“It’s a little tough to grasp what actually happened,” said Lostroh. “I’m feeling good, and feeling off some times.
“Just to feel normal again is huge.”