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

Code of conduct needed after Curling Classic debacle, says Red Deer Curling Manager

Wade Thurber says code of conduct will help organizers in the future if another incident occurs

Notre Dame students wear blue to support National Child Day

Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre chosen as recipient of monies raised for Grad Service Project

Red Deer’s next winter celebration is just around the corner

Snow and Ice Celebration runs Dec. 1st at Red Deer Civic Yards

Red Deer husband and father of four passes away overseas

A GoFundMe page has been set up to support the family

The Gaetz Avenue bridge is officially open to traffic

After over two years Red Deerians will have an easier commute

VIDEO: Shoppers like self-checkout lanes at the grocery store, survey suggests

Grocery Experience National Survey Report suggests most grocery shoppers spend 32 minutes per visit

Former NHL player and coach Dan Maloney dies at 68

Maloney coached the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets

Ex-MSU president charged with lying to police about Nassar

Lou Anna Simon was charged Tuesday with lying to police during an investigation

Police looking into two more incidents at private Toronto all-boys’ school

Police and the school have said two of the prior incidents involved an alleged sexual assault

25% of Canadians still won’t say they use pot, survey says

Statistics Canada poll says Canadians on average were 18.9 years old when they first tried pot.

The latest advent calendar trend: Holiday cannabis

A Canadian company is giving people from coast to coast a new way to celebrate the Christmas countdown.

Ponoka’s Caleb Shimwell arrested after pursuit

Police allege that Shimwell rammed a police cruiser

731,000 Canadians going into debt to buy prescription drugs: UBC

Millennials and those without private coverage were more likely to borrow money

Most Read