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Humboldt Broncos’ Ryan Straschnitzki happy with results from spinal surgery

Checking up on Ryan Straschnitzki
WATCH: Checking up on Ryan Straschnitzki

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.

READ MORE: Former Humboldt Broncos coach Chris Beaudry reflects on healing, forgiveness

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.

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“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.

Injured Bronco Ryan Straschnitzki teaches lessons on and off the ice
Injured Bronco Ryan Straschnitzki teaches lessons on and off the ice

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.”

READ MORE: Humboldt Broncos’ Ryan Straschnitzki describes panicked moments following deadly bus crash

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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.

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.

Ryan Straschnitzki back in Canada after Thailand trip
Ryan Straschnitzki back in Canada after Thailand trip

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.”

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