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

Trevor Davis, base manager of the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation in Sidney, stands in front of the Hecate Sentinal, an oil skimming vessel based at Sidney’s Van Isle Marina. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Oil spill response base taking shape on Saanich Peninsula

Enhanced base with elements in North Saanich and Sidney to be fully operational in fall 2022

The O’Meara family – (left to right) Mari, Max, Adam and Rei – spent Saturday afternoon picking out the perfect tree. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Santa’s Forest tree sale in Saanich implements one-way perusing, curbside pick up

Christmas tree, wreath sales in Braefoot Park through Dec. 24

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

(Black Press Media file)
Webinars help Greater Victoria residents affected by dementia prepare for the holidays

COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions can add additional challenges for people living with dementia

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Most Read