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

Local marimba player Nicole Arendt will be prominently featured in the Vancouver Island Symphony’s upcoming ‘Debussy and Duets’ concert. (Chris Helman photo)
Nanaimo marimba player in the spotlight in Vancouver Island Symphony concert

Longtime VIS timpanist Nicole Arendt to play three pieces in ‘Debussy and Duets’ live stream

The site of the former Arrowview Hotel, on Second Avenue and Athol Street, as of Jan. 14, 2020. (Elena Rardon/Black Press)
Port Alberni pressures owner of demolished hotel, Lantzville’s Pottie, for final cleanup

Demolition finished in June 2020 but site still full of construction material

Letter writers weigh in on the City of Nanaimo adopting ‘doughnut’ economics as a guiding principle for decision-making.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: City of Nanaimo’s ‘doughnut’ has to be more than empty calories

Letter writers react to city council’s recent decision to adopt ‘doughnut’ economic model

Emergency crews were called to a crash involving a car and a minivan Saturday afternoon at the old Island Highway and Mary Ellen Drive. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
One person taken to hospital after crash in north Nanaimo

Car and minivan collided Saturday at the intersection of the old Island Highway and Mary Ellen Drive

Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization, a non-profit, seeks to raise $8,000 for a play structure to help children remain active during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization asking for help fundraising for play structure

Physical activities have been limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, says non-profit

Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization, a non-profit, seeks to raise $8,000 for a play structure to help children remain active during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization asking for help fundraising for play structure

Physical activities have been limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, says non-profit

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage addresses the attendees while Tom Olsen, Managing Director of the Canadian Energy Centre, looks on at a press conference at SAIT in Calgary on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Fulmes
‘Morally and ethically wrong:’ Court to hear challenge to Alberta coal policy removal

At least 9 interveners will seek to join a rancher’s request for a judicial review of Alberta’s decision

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

Cyclists pick up swag and cycling trail maps at city Bike to Work Week ‘celebration station’ a few years ago. (News Bulletin file photo)
City of Nanaimo’s active transportation plan will be about more than infrastructure

City working on goals to double walking trips and quintuple cycling and busing trips

Jackie Hildering, whale researcher with the Marine Education and Research Society, and Nanaimo Area Land Trust will present the Return of Giants, a webinar about the humpback whales’ return from the brink of extinction and how boaters can help protect them. (Jackie Hildering/MERS photo taken under Marine Mammal License MML-42)
‘Return of the Giants:’ B.C. getting a second chance to coexist with humpback whales

‘Marine Detective’ partners with Nanaimo stewardship group on webinar

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam at a press conference last year. (Canadian Press photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Better federal vaccine planning badly needed

Why hasn’t Parliament done more to protect seniors and care homes, asks letter writer

A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Kinsmen Participark in Beban Park will be closed next week so city workers can remove dangerous trees and invasive plant species. The work is the start of an improvement project that includes replacing signs and fitness stations in the spring. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo fitness park to close for removal of hazard trees and invasive plants

Tree cutting to start in Beban Park’s Kinsmen Participark as part of improvement project

Most Read