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.

Just Posted

Man cycles across B.C. Interior for sobriety

Vancouver Island Resident Matt Fee is approaching the final phase of his cross-Canada bike journey to raise awareness about addiction recovery.

LETTER: Upper Arrow Heights resident urges council to deny rezoning in area

Mayor and Council, I am concerned about the application for rezoning and… Continue reading

Conservative leader stops in Lake Country

Andrew Scheer says he would bring back two child-focused tax credits cut by the Liberals

Kelowna classroom where child allegedly overdosed re-opens after cleaning

An 8-year-old was unresponsive and unable to walk after ingesting an unknown substance at school.

Revelstoke’s Dam Survivors bring home bronze

The dragon boat team finished up their season with a medal

VIDEO: Liberals make child care pledge, Greens unveil platform on Day 6 of campaign

Green party leader Elizabeth May unveils her party’s platform in Toronto

Canucks sign Brock Boeser to three-year, US$17.6-million deal

Young sniper will be in Vancouver Tuesday

B.C. forest industry looks to a high-technology future

Restructuring similar to Europe 15 years ago, executive says

RCMP conclude investigation into 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire

Files have been turned over to BC Prosecution Service

B.C. wants to be part of global resolution in opioid company bankruptcy claim

Government says settlement must include Canadian claims for devastation created by overdose crisis

B.C. ends ‘birth alerts’ in child welfare cases

‘Social service workers will no longer share information about expectant parents without consent’

U.S. student, killed in Bamfield bus crash, remembered as ‘kind, intelligent, talented’

John Geerdes, 18, was one of two UVic students killed in the crash on Friday night

Facebook group forms committee against Thompson Nicola R.V. crackdown

Group discusses issues with regional R.V. bylaw at recent meeting

Free Tesla 3 offered with purchase of Surrey townhome

Century Group’s offer for Viridian development runs through Oct. 31

Most Read