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 time of transition:’ CHN looking to release next steps of pandemic response this week

State of local emergency is in effect; Gaagwiis says CHN developing indicators to guide next steps

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach urges feds to compensate airline passengers

Letter to transport minister touches on Northwest B.C. tourism operators impacted by COVID-19

Two new bridges to be built along Highway 16 between Port Clements, Tlell

Ministry of Transportation says $5.4-million project expected to be complete in fall 2020

‘Now Is the Time’ doc will start streaming on National Indigenous Peoples Day

Film featuring Haida carver Robert Davidson will launch June 21 for free on NFB website

Haida Gwaii couple frustrated after Air Canada cancels flight, denies compensation

Mike Racz says another passenger received $1,000 while he was only offered e-coupon and promo code

VIDEO: A Vancouver Island black bear takes weekend nap in eagle tree

Videos captured by Terry Eissfeldt shows the bear arriving Saturday night and sleeping in on Sunday

George Floyd asphyxiated by sustained pressure: family autopsy

Death sparked a wave of protests across the U.S. and abroad

COVID-19: B.C. commercial landlords can’t evict if they decline rent assistance

Emergency order ‘incentive’ for federal program, Carole James says

Investigators probe death of CN employee at Surrey rail yard

Transportation Safety Board is investigating an ‘occurrence that took place during switching operations’

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Trans Mountain starts B.C. leg of pipeline twinning project

Mostly finished in Alberta, Burnaby terminal expanding

NDP getting COVID-19 wage subsidy ‘indirectly,’ B.C. Liberal leader says

Andrew Wilkinson says he’s heard no concerns from public

Most Read