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

New ‘hub’ model takes regional approach to doctor recruitment in West Kootenay

Kootenay-Boundary a provincial leader in effectively attracting doctors to work here

Missing Slocan City man found dead

Douglas Morrison went missing in mid-January

School District 51 turns its focus to students’ mental health

‘It’s a shift in our thinking, from what we expect schools to be like and what they are now’

IN PHOTOS: 2020 Wilgress Lake Fishing Derby

Fishermen dotted Wilgress Lake for the Boundary Métis Association’s annual event

Grand Forks marches against gender violence

The Grand Forks march was part of 1 Billion Rising, a global movement against gender violence

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Landlord ordered to pay $11K after harassing B.C. mom to move days after giving birth

Germaine Valdez was pressured to move just a few days after giving birth by C-section to her child

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

Adapting to love along the Columbia River

One man starts a GoFundme to help his partner with health costs caused on the trip where they met

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Eyes on police after Trudeau orders blockades torn down, injunctions enforced

The RCMP in B.C. have sent a letter to the traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation

B.C. massage therapist suspended following allegations of sexual misconduct

While suspended, Leonard Krekic is not entitled to practice as an RMT in B.C.

Most Read