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

Vancouver measles outbreak prompts vaccine vigilance on Island

No cases here yet, but Island health authorities push measles vaccinations - and not just for kids

Sound of Music echoes with a surprising amount of cool

Chemainus Theatre review: my teenage self didn’t know what he was missing

Robert Barron column: Thanks to municipal workers during snow storm

I’ve always wondered how anything gets done when mounds of snow fall from the sky.

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Ladysmith chasing basketball glory

LSS junior boys off to BC’s, school hosting senior boys AA Island championships this weekend

‘Riya was a dreamer’: Mother of slain 11-year-old Ontario girl heartbroken

Her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested some 130 kilometres away

Searchers return to avalanche-prone peak in Vancouver to look for snowshoer

North Shore Rescue, Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog teams and personnel will be on Mt. Seymour

Market volatility, mortgages loom over upcoming earnings of Canada’s big banks

Central bank interest hikes have padded the banks’ net interest margins

Hearings into SNC-Lavalin affair start today, but not with Wilson-Raybould

She has repeatedly cited solicitor-client privilege to refuse all comment

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

B.C. pot giant Tilray to acquire hemp food company Manitoba Harvest for up to $419 million

Tilray will pay $150 million in cash and $127.5 million in stock.

Tears, flowers at impromptu memorial for Syrian children killed in Halifax fire

The family had only lived in the Quartz Drive home for a few months

NDP candidates push for stronger climate action as Singh supports LNG Canada

Singh has tried to project unity in the party while facing internal criticism for poor fundraising and low support in the polls

‘Bullet missed me by an inch’: Man recounts friend’s killing at Kamloops hotel

Penticton man witnessed Summerland resident Rex Gill’s murder in Kamloops

Most Read