ADDISON — Brandi Todd's remarkable will to move her life forward shows through as beads of sweat build on her face and chest.
The young mother — who was paralyzed in a stabbing attack two years ago — hopes her workouts at a new rehab gym will make her stronger, more flexible and more independent.
"Oh," she says, startled during one exercise. "I felt that!"
Todd can't be sure what she felt as her exercise therapist pushed against her legs. But she's pretty sure she felt something, despite a spinal cord that was 90 percent severed by her assailant.
A stranger stabbed her as she watched her kids at a Stephenville park.
Now, 11-year-old Olivia watches her mom struggle against paralysis, and quizzes the trainer about how the exercises might help.
"She's paralyzed from here down," Olivia explained, holding her hands at her chest.
The therapist is specially trained to work with spine injury patients. She pushes Todd hard at the new rehab center, called Project Walk on Beltway Drive in Addison.
It was opened a few weeks ago by a young Dallas woman paralyzed by a broken neck.
Kendell Hall spent a year and half working out at a Project Walk center near San Diego — four days a week, three hours a day.
Hall said doctors told her she'd be lucky just to feed herself. She now leads an independent life, and can even get around a little with a walker.
"I actually stand on my own in my bathroom to dress," Hall said. "I absolutely don't think I would have been able to do that. I wouldn't have even thought I could do that. So I wouldn't have pushed myself to get there."
When Kendell Hall returned to Texas, she raised money and tapped her savings to open the non-profit facility. She licensed the name Project Walk; there is another facility in Austin.
Hall hired the same trainer who helped her and Todd in California. Kimmy Bloker kept up a steady stream of encouragement as she helped Todd balance on her knees.
"That's really good, Brandi. That's one of the hardest places to balance," Bloker told her.
It might not be apparent, but the repetitive exercises are grueling. Todd hopes to do this weekly, even though the therapy costs $100 an hour and is not covered by most insurance.
"I would like to walk," she says, but she doesn't expect a miracle... just progress.
"I certainly don't come here thinking oh, definitely, I'll walk," Todd said.
But she said she must work at improving. That is, when she's not working her full-time job at a food packaging plant... or designing flip-flops... or even getting thrown off a horse.
Yes, Brandi Todd is riding again.
"I'm pretty excited about that," she laughed.
Todd decided while she was still in the hospital that she wasn't going to take her misfortune lying down.
She's definitely not.