Humboldt Broncos survivor Ryan Straschnitzki concentrates as he ties his shoe during a physiotherapy session at the Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Paralyzed Humboldt player pulls out all the stops in effort to go home

Hockey player Ryan Straschnitzki is paralyzed from the chest down after a fatal bus crash

The steady footsteps heard coming from the physiotherapy room at Philadelphia’s Shriners hospital belong to paralyzed Humboldt Broncos hockey player Ryan Straschnitzki.

“It’s just hard to keep my neck up,” he said during a session this week.

Straschnitzki clenched his fists as he took a stroll on the TheraSlide — a device that puts him in a harness while his feet touch a treadmill below. Staff move his legs and feet forward to simulate walking.

“Wow, my legs are really red,” he said during a break. “I feel like I’ve just done one round of boxing.”

“Ready to go for Round 2?” asked his father Tom.

“Yeah,” Ryan said.

RELATED: Teen paralyzed in Humboldt crash goes to U.S. for treatment

Straschnitzki, 19, was paralyzed from the chest down after a fatal bus crash involving the junior hockey team’s bus and a semi trailer in April. Sixteen people died and 13 others, including Straschnitzki, were injured.

He has been in Philadelphia for about a month for therapy to improve his mobility and independence.

“He’s just driven and motivated,” said physiotherapist Christin Krey. “He did great today so our intention is to keep moving with that.

“The ultimate goal over time for him is to potentially see some improvements and some muscles that aren’t working right now or some sensory changes or some balance improvements.”

Straschnitzki seemed exhausted but excited by the new therapy.

“My legs feel great,” he said. “It’s like they’re tingling.”

Straschnitzki suffered a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, a punctured lung and bleeding in his head and pelvis in the crash. He got some good news after a meeting with his doctor.

“We talked about a discharge date depending on how things go this week. I’m hoping to go home next week,” he said, beaming.

“Good things happen when you work hard I guess. I’m pumped.”

RELATED: Hats fundraiser for paralyzed Humboldt Broncos player takes off

Straschnitzki is focused on life after Philadelphia. He spent an hour this week lifting himself from his wheelchair to a raised platform, simulating moving into the seat of an SUV, which would allow him to hang out with his friends.

His final attempt saw him successfully pull himself up nearly 22 centimetres onto a bed.

“That was tough,” Ryan laughed, leaning back and putting his hand over his heart. “That was the hardest thing I’ve done … that, and showers.

“I just want a normal way of life again … doing ordinary things that I used to do — just in a different way.”

Dr. Bethany Lipa, Straschnitzki’s doctor, said most people in his position don’t realize they have to learn how to do everything again. Straschnitzki has made great progress, she said.

“There are still challenges ahead but he’s a great, really motivated young man and he approaches all the challenges with everything he has,” she said. “He’s going to do a fantastic job.”

Tom Straschnitzki says his son’s imminent return home to Airdrie, Alta., just north of Calgary, could be put on hold if the family doesn’t have new living arrangements soon. Their home is being renovated and they are waiting to see if they can move into a vacant show home or a local hotel.

“They won’t release him until we have a place to live,” he said. “We’re looking into it.”

Straschnitzki said he’s willing to stay in Philadelphia and continue working on his rehab until a place is ready. He’s thinking about getting a job, earning a business degree or pursuing a career in broadcasting.

He’s simply glad to be alive.

“I’m not looking at this as a negative,” Straschnitzki said. “It’s just a different curve that maybe God has chosen for me, but I’m willing to accept the challenge and live my life to the fullest.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Kootenay Robusters end 18th paddling season

Women of Trail, Castlegar, Rossland, Christina Lake and Grand Forks came together in 2001

Trail bus line readies to takeover Kelowna run

Silver City Stage Lines must have a booking site up by Sept. 30; two vehicles activated by Oct. 26

More burning prohibitions rescinded in southeast B.C.

Category 2 and 3 fires will be permitted in Southeast Fire Centre as of 1p.m. on Wednesday.

Cops For Kids’ southeast B.C. tour rolls on

Annual RCMP fundraiser will see 34 cyclists ride 1,000 kilometres raising funds

Municipal spending outpaces population growth 4-fold in B.C.: report

Canadian Federation of Independent Business has released its annual operational spending report

Live bear cam: Let the fishing begin

Watch bears in Alaska’s Katmai National Park catch their dinner live.

Hockey league gets $1.4M for assistance program after Humboldt Broncos crash

Program will help players, families, coaches and volunteers after the shock of the deadly crash

Canada has removed six out of 900 asylum seekers already facing U.S. deportation

Ottawa had said the ‘overwhelming majority’ had been removed

Appeal pipeline decision but consult Indigenous communities, Scheer says

The federal appeals court halted the Trans Mountain expansion last month

B.C. electric vehicle subsidy fund drains faster than expected

Province adds another $10 million to incentive fund

‘I’ll never forgive you:’ Victim impact statements at hearing for Calgary killer

Curtis Healy was found guilty of first-degree murder Friday in the death of Dawns Baptiste.

Man accused of mailing bomb to his brother in B.C. has died

Leon Nepper was found in ‘medical distress’ at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre on Sunday

It’s shaping up to be quite a finish in CFL’s West Division standings

The Calgary Stampeders (10-2) are first, four points ahead of the Saskatchewan Roughriders (8-5).

Most Read