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*

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

Volunteers participate in a work-bee at J.J. Collett Natural Area on March 27. (Photo Submitted)
J.J. Collett natural area proceeding with projects

The nature area appeared on a list of parks and nature areas that were “underutilized” by UCP

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Alberta joins Ontario in lowering minimum age for AstraZeneca vaccine

More than 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca have been administered in this country

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,516 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

Central zone has 1,849 active cases

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It’s not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he’d been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

Police are still looking for suspects, and have called in their forensics experts to help

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Most Read