Paralyzed survivor of Humboldt Broncos crash at a loss for words over progress since spinal surgery – The Globe and Mail

By daniellenierenberg

Ryan Straschnitzki sits in a hockey sled while he does physiotherapy in Bangkok, Thailand after spinal surgery.

Tom Straschnitzki/The Canadian Press

A hockey player paralyzed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash says he is thrilled with the progress hes made since receiving spinal surgery in Thailand a month ago.

Doctors implanted an epidural stimulator in Ryan Straschnitzkis spine, and one week later injected stem cells above and below the injury to try to reverse some of the damage.

The 20-year-old has just a week to go before returning home to Airdrie, Alta.

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Its been progressively getting better and harder at the same time, which is good. They put me through a good sweat, doing a couple of laps around the buildings. Its good work, Mr. Straschnitzki said in an interview from Bangkok with The Canadian Press.

One video of his rehab shows him straightening a leg. In another, he is strapped into a harness as physiotherapists slowly help him walk with the use of a wheeled machine.

I was at a loss for words. I was really shocked and excited at the same time. It kind of scared me a little bit, but again, it was pretty excited, Mr. Straschnitzki said.

I dont remember being that tall.

He said he felt all sorts of emotions when he took his first steps since climbing aboard the Broncos hockey bus on April 6, 2018.

It gave me kind of a shock and brought back obviously a lot of memories ... [including] all the sports activities I was involved in.

Mr. Straschnitzki was one of 13 players injured when an inexperienced truck driver blew through a stop sign and into the path of the Saskatchewan junior teams bus. Sixteen others on the bus would die.

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Mr. Straschnitzki, who was paralyzed from the chest down, isnt expecting a cure, but hopes the implant will restore some muscle movement.

Tom Straschnitzki, the young mans father, said the only downside is that his son is enduring spasms after using muscles that havent been working for the past 19 months.

Hes getting pain where he never had before, which is a good thing, but it takes months for it to kick in.

Tom Straschnitzki said the best part of the journey has been watching his son react to the changes hes experiencing.

When he took his first steps on his own and he controlled it ... he was pretty revved.

The surgery can cost up to $100,000 and isnt covered by public health care or insurance, because the epidural procedure has not been approved by Health Canada. The Straschnitzki family is paying for it, but is angry the treatment isnt available here.

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Health Canada says it has licensed spinal-cord stimulators but only for pain relief.

The department has not licensed a spinal-cord stimulator device for regaining motor skills or sensory functions following spinal injuries, nor received an application for this intended use as of yet, Health Canada spokesman Geoffroy Legault-Thivierge wrote in an email.

Ryan Straschnitzki, who is hoping to make the Canadian sledge-hockey team and compete in the Olympics, took his sled with him to Thailand and has been sitting in it as part of his rehab.

Its supposed to help me with more balance, so when Im on the ice Im not falling over as easily.

Hes finally been cleared to return to the ice in Bangkok later this week.

Ive been itching to get out there and I cant wait.

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Paralyzed survivor of Humboldt Broncos crash at a loss for words over progress since spinal surgery - The Globe and Mail

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