Humboldt Broncos bus crash survivor Ryan Straschnitzki attends a physiotherapy session with kinesiologist Kirill Dubrovskiy, left, and physiotherapist Nelson Morela, centre, in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Aug. 20, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

‘Baby steps’: Paralyzed Humboldt Broncos player learns old skills after accident

Sixteen people were killed and 13 were injured when a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team and a semi-trailer collided in rural Saskatchewan.

Paralyzed Humboldt Broncos player Ryan Straschnitzki is on his hands and knees trying a skill he hasn’t had to practise for 18 years — how to crawl.

Straschnitzki, with the assistance of two physiotherapists, is being shown how to keep himself upright on his arms and how to move his legs forward, a few inches at a time.

“It’s almost like you’re restarting life again. Growing up, you learn to crawl before you learn to walk. You learn to walk before you learn to run and all of that. It’s baby steps,” Straschnitzki, 19, told The Canadian Press in the midst of a recent sweat-soaked, one-hour workout.

“It’s hard to do, but I’ve done it a few times. I’m a little better, but I’ve still got lots to do.”

With three full months of rehabilitation under his belt, Straschnitzki has been focusing on the future and not what might have been. He was paralyzed from the chest down when a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team and a semi-trailer collided in April in rural Saskatchewan.

Sixteen people were killed and 13 were injured.

“Everyone struggles at some point in their life, but it’s how you overcome it that matters. I’m here now because I worked hard then,” Straschnitzki said.

“I like to keep the positive mentality and hopefully walk again some day because of it. I’m here to inspire people and tell them it’s not over.”

Related: Humboldt Broncos’ president steps down from executive

Related: B.C. not prepared for a Humboldt Broncos bus crash, group says

Part of his enthusiasm comes from his long-term plan to be a member of Canada’s national sledge hockey team and get a shot at participating in the Winter Paralympic Games. In sledge hockey, players use double-blade sledges instead of skates that allow the puck to pass beneath. They have two sticks which have a spike-end for pushing and a blade-end for shooting.

He’s already been on the ice a number of times and is training for a fundraiser in Calgary next month.

“I’ve gotten stronger. I think I’ve gotten bigger. Sledge hockey seems a lot more easier than it should be. It’s all thanks to these guys,” he said.

“It makes me happy to be here knowing that I’m working toward a big goal of some day playing for Team Canada but, for now, I’m just having fun on the ice and enjoying my time here and working hard.”

Straschnitzki underwent therapy at Foothills Hospital in Calgary before spending a month at the Shriners Hospital for Sick Children in Philadelphia.

He’s now put in another 30 days at a Calgary spinal cord injury rehabilitation centre.

“In the month that Ryan’s been here, probably one of the most substantial areas of improvement that we’ve seen is in his core and his trunk stability. He can see it makes a big difference in his sledge hockey. He’s able to manoeuvre and control a bit better,” said Uyen Nguyen, executive director and founder of Synaptic Spinal Cord Injury and Neuro Rehabilitation Centre.

“In neuro rehab, a month is actually not a whole lot of time, so for us to see any change or progress is really encouraging.”

Nguyen said Straschnitzki was working hard at rehabilitation but, since he started playing sledge hockey, he’s stepped it up.

“What I really admire and respect about Ryan is he doesn’t lament about what he’s lost,” said Nguyen.

“He just looks forward to what he’s going to do and what he’s going to gain. Hockey as he knew it is behind him. That was a previous chapter and he’s ready to move on.”

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

South Okanagan real estate market adjusting to ‘new normal’

Numbers are up in March; however, industry insiders say the market has cooled

Serious assault leaves Osoyoos woman in critical condition: RCMP

A 60-year-old Osoyoos woman suffers life threatening injuries following assault inside home

Not all receive COVID-19 aid from federal government

Summerland woman does not qualify for federal assistance during COVID-19 pandemic

Pair of Penticton Vees forwards eye NHL Entry Draft

Danny Weight and Ryan McGuire included in Central Scouting’s final draft rankings

Law enforcement will patrol shuttered campgrounds in Cascades this weekend

Patrols will enforce provincial order requiring all such facilities remain closed during COVID-19

COVID-19 death toll reaches 50 in B.C., while daily case count steadies

B.C. records 34 new cases in the province, bringing total active confirmed cases to 462

Public warned to stay away from algae bloom near Herald Park in Shuswap Lake

Interior Health states that people, pets should not drink the water in the area or touch the algae

B.C. unveils $5M for mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic

Will include virtual clinics and resources for British Columbians, including front-line workers

South Shuswap residents criticize upgrades to Balmoral Road/Highway 1 intersection

Reliance on frontage roads and narrow underpasses near Blind Bay not good enough

B.C.’s COVID-19 rent supplement starts taking applications

$300 to $500 to landlords for April, May and June if eligible

COVID-19: No more international flights at Kelowna International Airport

All international flights at YLW have been suspended, airport to operate just nine flights a day

B.C.’s top doctor details prescription for safe long weekend

Yes, it includes hosting an online cooking show

BC SPCA seeks help for abandoned German shepherd puppies

Donations have ‘petered out’ as doors are closed due to COVID-19

Reality TV show about bodybuilders still filming in Okanagan amid COVID-19

Five bodybuilders from across the country flew to Kelowna to move into a house for a reality TV show

Most Read