Brandi Todd has been faced with overcoming a tremendous amount of adversity during the last week. But through it all, she has managed to keep a positive attitude - and a sense of humor.
Monday morning, Todd laughed as she held a high heel shoe that she bought the morning of March 14 - the day that changed her life.
That Sunday morning, Todd went to visit her mother, who was recovering from knee surgery, to show off her new shoes.
"I teased her with the brand new shoes I bought," Todd laughed. "They made my legs look skinny."
After the short visit with her mother, Todd took her children, ages four and eight, to Sonic Drive-In and to Stephenville City Park.
It was at the park that Todd's world was turned upside down.
Todd was perched on a bench when she noticed a man walking around the baseball fields.
"There were so many people I didn't even think about it," Todd said.
Minutes later, Todd realized something was wrong when she sensed someone standing behind her.
"The next thing I knew it felt like someone had hit me with a baseball bat," she said. "It knocked my breath out - I couldn't talk, I couldn't yell."
Todd knew instantly that something was wrong.
"I immediately lost sensation in my legs," she said. "I reached my fingers through the holes in the bench and pulled myself up. I reached back with my other hand and I felt blood."
Caitlin Porter, although a complete stranger to Todd, came to the rescue.
"She came over to me and she put a jacket on my back. She was just amazing," Todd said. "God really puts people in places at certain times and she was there to help me."
Todd was still unsure of what happened, until Porter informed her.
"She told me, 'You've been stabbed,'" Todd said.
Even more than a week later, Todd is shocked about being stabbed in the Stephenville City Park.
"You never think to hear the words, 'You've been stabbed' - not in Stephenville, not at the park and certainly not in front of your kids," Todd said.
Road to recovery
Monday signaled the start of a new journey for Todd - rehabilitation.
Todd was scheduled to move to a Baylor Healthcare System location in Fort Worth, where she will begin physical therapy.
"Baylor is probably one of the best rehab centers in the country," Todd's doctor Michael Hickey said.
Hickey said it is difficult to determine if patients suffering spinal cord injuries will make a full recovery, especially when 90 percent of the spinal cord is damaged, like in Todd's case. He did, however, say that the "tingling" sensations Todd feels in her lower extremities are a good sign.
"That makes us very optimistic," Hickey said. "She may get some function back, I hope she gets it all back."
When asked how a patient's determination would affect recovery, Hickey strongly complimented Todd.
"It depends on the determination of the patient," Hickey said. "I have never seen anyone so determined."
And Todd made it clear that she is determined to move on with her life.
"This is not the end - we (my children and I) are still going to be happy," Todd said. "We are way too strong for this to be something that brings us down."
Todd said sitting up on her own and learning to take deep breaths has been a struggle, but she is optimistic that will change over the next four weeks.
"I've been told it is going to be hard," Todd said.
Despite the warning, Todd is looking forward to learning how to accomplish the basic necessities, which she said she took for granted before. She is also optimistic that she will eventually walk again.
"People have had worse injuries than this and walked," Todd said. "I really think rehab is going to be huge for me."
Todd said she avoids crying and only looks for ways that will aid her in traveling down the road to recovery.
"I don't like to cry," she said. "It is not very productive for me. Breaking down and crying is not going to help me walk - nobody wants to see me cry."
When asked about her attacker, 42-year-old Stephenville resident Michael Howard, Todd admitted that she is angry.
"I am extremely angry at him," she said. "I am extremely angry that he did this, but I am not going to let the anger take over."
Todd said she decided to go public about her attack because she wants people to know that there are individuals in the world who need help.
"I think that people failed him," Todd said. "I think that he asked for help and people failed him."
Despite feeling like the "system" failed her attacker, Todd said she believes he should still be held accountable for his actions.
"I think everybody should be held accountable for the things that they do," she said. "I am not saying that he is not to blame because certainly you have to be held responsible for what you do but he needed help and nobody helped him for whatever reason - that reason is irrelevant."
In addition to fundraisers and an account in Todd's name at Town and Country Bank, friends have set up a Web site, www.branditodd.com.
The Web site will follow Todd on her road to recovery, posting progress "every step of the way," it states.
The site also allows individuals to sign a guestbook, view pictures of Todd and her family and even make donations.