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

Move natural gas pipeline, MP suggests

Coastal GasLink could then avoid opposition

B.C. minister says rural internet is ‘railroad of the 21st century’

Jinny Sims talks details about the $50-million provincial and possible $750-million federal funds

Zero-interest student loans a huge relief: CMTN student union

Parliamentary secretary hears from Terrace students, alumni and staff

Tl’azt’en man emerges strong from leukemia struggle

“You have to find that inner you and fight back,” Darren says

WANTED: Five sought by RCMP

Police asking for public’s assistance finding five people on outstanding warrants.

After mosque attacks, New Zealand bans ‘military-style’ guns

The gunman killed 50 in a Christchurch mosque

Teen girl accused in plot to attack Kamloops school with weapons out on bail

Judge warned the girl she would be back in jail if she threatened to shoot anyone

Crown drops one assault charge against B.C. man linked to human remains probe

Curtis Wayne Sagmoen will still stand trial on one count of assault causing bodily harm in December.

POLICE: ‘Don’t leave children unattended in vehicles’

Williams Lake RCMP issue warning after attending complaint at Walmart Wednesday

ICBC shifts to Alberta model, with higher rates, private insurers say

Minor injury cap, court restrictions take effect April 1 in B.C.

Trans woman hopes funding cut will send message to B.C. rape crisis group

Rape Relief does not turn transgender women away and often connects them to other services, group says

B.C. sees fourth straight day of record-breaking warmth

Bob Marley said it best: The sun is shining and the weather is sweet

UPDATE: Two avalanches confirmed at Okanagan ski resort, one in hospital

A man has been sent to hospital after an isothermal avalanche at SilverStar March 20

Most Read