Ryan Straschnitzki helps medical team members secure his legs into an ice hockey sledge during a mapping session at World Health Hospital in Nonthaburi, Thailand on December 6, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cory Wright

Paralyzed Humboldt Bronco player happy with spinal surgery results

Ryan Straschnitzki, who can’t move from the chest down, had an epidural stimulator implanted in his spine

A hockey player paralyzed in a bus crash has been working hard since undergoing spinal surgery in Thailand late last year and it’s getting him closer to his dream of making the national sledge hockey team.

Ryan Straschnitzki, who can’t move from the chest down, had an epidural stimulator implanted in his spine in November. The device sends electrical currents to his spinal cord to try to stimulate nerves and move limbs.

Now the former Humboldt Broncos player spends a couple of days a week learning to walk with the help of a machine and trying to build up his legs.

“It’s taking some practice to get those muscles going again, but I’ve noticed even my spasticity is increasing. They’re bigger spasms and the legs are flying all over the place — but it’s good,” he said from his home in Airdrie, Alta.

“One step at a time, right? Any sort of progression is good.”

Straschnitzki’s efforts to improve his leg muscle mass and bone density, as well as his balance, are paying off.

In December, he was named to the Alberta sledge hockey team.

“Only being a year in and making the provincial team is a huge win in my books,” Straschnitzki said. “I’m excited to see where it goes in the future.

“They have camps every month and this year nationals are in Leduc (Alta.) in May, so I’m kind of working to get that roster spot to play.”

Straschnitzki, 20, was hurt when a semi-trailer and the Broncos team bus collided at a rural intersection in Saskatchewan in April 2018. Sixteen people were killed and 13 were injured. The truck driver pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Uyen Nguyen, executive director of the Synaptic Spinal Cord Injury and Neuro Rehabilitation Centre in Calgary, said she hopes the federal government takes notice of Straschnitzki’s success.

The surgery can cost up to $100,000, but isn’t covered by public health care or insurance, because the epidural procedure has not been approved by Health Canada.

“I am very, very hopeful that our Canadian government will be more receptive to progressive changes in medical technology,” said Nguyen.

“It is here in Canada and we know the device is safe. It’s being used for chronic pain, so all we need to do is shift perspective to look at other purposes this device could serve.”

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fiery collision involving truck closes Highway 1 at Three Valley Gap

Drivers should expect major delays and congestion; estimated time of re-opening is 2 p.m.

Spectators asked to be on best behaviour at Shuswap school sporting events

Policy asks that spectators make positive comments remain silent

Rezoning to accommodate Ashley Furniture store highlights traffic concerns

Developer would like covenant requiring traffic study to exclude furniture store site

Knights of Columbus step up for Shuswap community groups

Organizations from Shuswap, Thompson regions receive $15,000

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

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

Tyler Toffoli scores twice, Canucks crush Bruins 9-3

Stecher, Miller each add three points for Vancouver

Zamboni driver, 42, earns NHL win over Maple Leafs

Emergency goalie called into action for Carolina Hurricanes

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

Prolific offenders from Alberta lead RCMP on chase from Kelowna to Abbotsford

Men first reported in Chilliwack ending with allegedly stolen vehicle in an Abbotsford pond

Most Read