Ryan Straschnitzki poses for a photograph in Philadelphia, Wednesday, March 20, 2019. Straschnitzki will depart on a 12,000 kilometre journey to Thailand later this week for a medical procedure that could help restore some movement after being paralyzed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Rourke

VIDEO: Paralyzed Humboldt Broncos player to get spinal surgery in Thailand

Straschnitzki hopes that an epidural stimulator implanted in his spine will help improve his daily life

A hockey player paralyzed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash is to depart on a 12,000-kilometre journey to Thailand later this week for surgery that could help restore some of his movement.

And one thing Ryan Straschnitzki is determined to take with him is his hockey sled.

“I’ll be gone for five weeks,” the 20-year-old told The Canadian Press following a gruelling physiotherapy workout. “If you do anything and work at it for so long, and then not do it for a month, you might be a little rusty.”

Straschnitzki, who is paralyzed from the chest down, hopes to make the national sledge hockey team.

He and 12 others were injured when a semi truck blew through a stop sign and into the path of the Saskatchewan junior hockey team’s bus in April 2018. Sixteen people died.

Straschnitzki hopes that an epidural stimulator implanted in his spine will help improve his daily life.

READ MORE: ‘I’m pretty pumped:’ On-ice reunion for injured Humboldt Broncos

“This is the best technology out there right now for spinal cord injuries. Why not give it a shot?” he said.

“It can bring back certain functions that most people with spinal injuries don’t have: muscle movement, bladder control. It’s little things like that which can make a huge difference.”

“We almost look at it as a Band-Aid below the level of injury. The stimulation then comes from the device. The recovery process is relatively straightforward and after a few days he’s able to start rehabilitation,” said Uyen Nguyen, executive director of the Synaptic Spinal Cord Injury and Neuro Rehabilitation Centre in Calgary, where Straschnitzki does his physio.

After the implant is placed in his back, a small device like a remote control will send electrical currents to his spinal cord to try to stimulate nerves and move limbs.

“I’m really excited for him. I think it’s an incredible opportunity and, from all the reports and everything else we’ve seen, it’s only a positive,” said the player’s mother, Michelle Straschnitzki, from the family’s home in Airdrie, Alta.

She’s not concerned about her son having unrealistic expectations.

“He is handling the realism of this much better than I am,” she said. “I want him to walk but, keeping in mind that you don’t want to get your hopes up too high, obviously this is a tremendous, positive step for him.”

Father Tom Straschnitzki is more cautious.

“We’ll see what this surgery can do for him. I’d just like to see his mid-section going and for him to get a better quality of life.”

He isn’t surprised his son is bringing his hockey sled.

“He’s always been like that. When he has a goal, he tries to achieve it. It’s never a straight path for him. It’s always a curve, but he always tries to achieve it.”

Although there won’t be any ice in Thailand, Ryan Straschnitzki intends to sit in his sled and practise his shots and puck control.

He said he’s ready for the surgery.

“I had the summer time to enjoy Stampede, hang with friends and do whatever I wanted to do. So now it’s time to get back to business.”

Straschnitzki is to leave Saturday and is due back in early December.

READ MORE: ‘What a role model:’ Paralyzed Bronco makes Adidas ad

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

A cup of tea can be a great hand-warmer on a cold day. (submitted)
Tea: it picks you up, it does not let you down

A good cup of tea never fails to brighten up the day

A map created by Clear Seas Centre for Responsible Marine Shipping, which assesses the sensitivity of Canada’s Pacific Coast to oil spills. This map highlights the Douglas Channel and other inlets and waterways around Kitimat and out to the coast. (Clear Seas map)
Douglas Channel scores ‘medium’ to high’ on oil spill sensitivity study

The study was done by a not-for-profit group specializing in sustainable marine shipping

Jody Craven of Kitimat has been announced as the BC Libertarian Party’s candidate for North Coast riding MLA on Oct. 5. (Jody Craven photo)
Jody Craven of Kitimat in the running for North Coast MLA

BC Libertarian Party has announced Craven as North Coast candidate for riding

Martin Holzbauer, independent, Nicole Halbauer, BC NDP, and Ellis Ross, BC Liberal Party, are the candidates for the Skeena riding in the upcoming provincial election. (Terrace Standard/BC NDP)
Skeena candidates talk northwest education

Online learning access and early childhood education were common themes

Stikine provincial election candidates (clockwise from top left): Nathan Cullen, NDP; Darcy Repen, Rural BC Party; Rod Taylor, Christian Heritage; and Gordon Sebastian, BC Liberals.
‘Where is Annita McPhee?’: Cullen under fire from opening salvo of all-candidates forum

Four Stikine candidates spar during online debate from Prestige Hudson Bay Lodge in Smithers

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Kootenay couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Most Read