Ryan Straschnitzki sits in a hockey sled while he does physiotherapy in Bangkok, Thailand after spinal surgery a month ago in this handout photo provided by his father. A hockey player paralyzed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash is thrilled with the progress he’s made since receiving spinal surgery in Thailand a month ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Tom Straschnitzki *MANDATORY CREDIT*

‘Loss for words’: Injured Bronco shocked, excited over effect of spinal surgery

Ryan Straschnitzki, who was paralyzed from the chest down, isn’t expecting a cure

A hockey player paralyzed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash says he is thrilled with the progress he’s made since receiving spinal surgery in Thailand a month ago.

Doctors implanted an epidural stimulator in Ryan Straschnitzki’s spine and one week later injected stem cells above and below the injury to try to reverse some of the damage.

The 20-year-old has just a week to go before returning home to Airdrie, Alta.

“It’s been progressively getting better and harder at the same time, which is good. They put me through a good sweat, doing a couple of laps around the buildings. It’s good work,” Straschnitzki said in an interview from Bangkok with The Canadian Press.

One video of his rehab shows him straightening a leg. In another he is strapped into a harness as physiotherapists slowly help him walk with the use of a wheeled machine.

“I was at a loss for words. I was really shocked and excited at the same time. It kind of scared me a little bit, but again it was pretty excited,” Straschnitzki said.

“I don’t remember being that tall.”

He said he felt all sorts of emotions when he took his first steps since climbing aboard the Broncos hockey bus on April 6, 2018.

“It gave me kind of a shock and brought back obviously a lot of memories … (including) all the sports activities I was involved in.”

Straschnitzki was one of 13 players injured when an inexperienced truck driver blew through a stop sign and into the path of the Saskatchewan junior team’s bus. Sixteen others on the bus would die.

Straschnitzki, who was paralyzed from the chest down, isn’t expecting a cure but hopes the implant will restore some muscle movement.

Tom Straschnitzki, the young man’s father, said the only downside is that his son is enduring spasms after using muscles that haven’t been working for the last 19 months.

“He’s getting pain where he never had before, which is a good thing, but it takes months for it to kick in.”

Straschnitzki said the best part of the journey has been watching his son react to the changes he’s experiencing.

“When he took his first steps on his own and he controlled it … he was pretty revved.”

READ MORE: ‘I was bawling’: Injured Bronco’s mother stunned by his progress after surgery

The surgery can cost up to $100,000 and isn’t covered by public health care or insurance, because the epidural procedure has not been approved by Health Canada. The Straschnitzki family is paying for it, but is angry the treatment isn’t available here.

Health Canada says it has licensed spinal cord stimulators but only for pain relief.

“The department has not licensed a spinal cord stimulator device for regaining motor skills or sensory functions following spinal injuries, nor received an application for this intended use as of yet,” Health Canada spokesman Geoffroy Legault-Thivierge wrote in an email.

Straschnitzki, who is hoping to make the Canadian sledge hockey team and compete in the Olympics, took his sled with him to Thailand and has been sitting in it as part of his rehab.

“It’s supposed to help me with more balance, so when I’m on the ice I’m not falling over as easily.”

He’s finally been cleared to return to the ice in Bangkok later this week.

“I’ve been itching to get out there and I can’t wait.”

ALSO READ: Father of Broncos player who died says Alberta organ donation bill needs work

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Northern Health preparing ‘for a changing situation’ in response to COVID-19

The health authority is taking a number of measures to free up hospital capacity where possible

Grant could help ease road rebuild cost

Would help pay for sidewalk, bike lane

Terrace Library, Misty River Books adapt amid COVID-19 to keep readers reading

Library also unrolling online programs to keep kids occupied

Preventable accidents may impede Search and Rescue capacity during pandemic

TSAR vice president urges outdoor enthusiasts to pause risky activities

Rio Tinto donates masks to Kitimat RCMP officers

Providing safety glasses as well

B.C. VIEWS: Small businesses need our help

Just as integral in neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Surrey as they are in Prince George or Kelowna

‘Tremendous’ response from blood donors has supply keeping pace with demand

About 400,000 of Canada’s 37 million residents give blood on a regular basis

Morning world update: Cases surge past 600,000; positive news in Germany

Spain suffers its deadliest day as Germany considers April 20 to possibly loosen restrictions

VIDEO: Penguins roam empty halls of Vancouver Aquarium

COVID-19 has forced the Vancouver Aquarium to close access to guests – leaving room for its residents

Kids get back to learning in B.C., online

Ministry of Education rolls out new tool for school

67 more B.C. COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Vancouver region

Positive tests found in Surrey, Langley long-term care facilities

‘Now is not the time to bag that peak’: BCSAR manager discourages risky outdoor adventures

Call volumes are not going down, even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists

Most Read