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

Rent-It Centre takes over curbside collection contract in Tofino and Ucluelet

Rent It Centre’s bid was $25,865 lower than the only other bidder, SonBird Refuse and Recycling.

Tofino’s first cannabis dispensary opens

“I don’t know where it’s going, but happy how it’s gone so far.”

Tofino welcomes much needed veterinarian to town

West Coast has not had a full-time vet since Dr. Jane Hunt surrendered her licence in 2004.

Looking back on the West Coast’s top 10 news stories

Tofino and Ucluelet’s top headlines of 2019.

Regional district looks at plans for Alberni Valley and West Coast landfills

Current plans were created in 2012 and require updating

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

BC Ferries hybrid ships arrive in Victoria on Saturday

The battery-operated vessels will take over smaller routes

Theft victim confronts suspects with baseball bat on Vancouver Island

RCMP in Nanaimo seek to identify of two people alleged to have used a stolen credit card

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

VIDEO: Ucluelet kids relish snow day on Vancouver Island

“We only get a snow day once a year, maybe.”

Clerk bruised, traumatized after armed robbery at Nanaimo liquor store

Few details on male suspect in Wednesday incident, says Nanaimo RCMP

Most Read