Calgary — Behind the face mask, Ryan Straschnitski was laughing, with sweat shining on his forehead.
The 22-year-old boy, who was paralyzed below his chest when the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos Junior Hockey Team crashed in 2018, achieved another milestone in a long recovery.
He stood up.
He needed a walker to help him, and his arms were upset from the effort, but more than three years later he was looking at the world from another and higher perspective.
“Sit here and look up at everyone. I forgot my height,” he laughed.
“I’m pretty happy … but I’m still not really happy. I know there’s more to give, and I know the next session will be even harder. My progress It’s really humble to see, but there’s a long way to go. “
Straschnitzki has worked with a team at the Synaptic Neurorehabilitation Center in Calgary. He transplanted an epidural stimulator into the Thai spine two years ago. This device sends an electric current to the spinal cord, stimulating nerves and trying to move the limbs.
He learned to program a device that looks like a calculator from a distance, and part of his physiotherapy while standing included lifting his legs.
“(Stimulator) helps move the foot and keeps it in balance. I’m used to it and I’m using a particular program that works best for a particular movement.”
Straschnitski, who wants to play Canadian sledge hockey someday at the Olympics, said his next goal is to be able to take several steps.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m working slowly here, but it’s going well.”
Uyen Nguyen, Executive Director of Synaptic, said Straschnitzki has worked hard since returning from Thailand. She said getting up was an important step forward.
“He didn’t understand the importance of what this meant,” she said. “Being able to do such things on our own gives him a little more independence and freedom to navigate his world.”
Nguyen said Straschnitski might be able to take steps on the spot at some point, but the important thing is to make enough progress to give him an emotional lift.
“For those of us who don’t live in that space, we forget that we feel as tall as we are, or that we can see the world from a completely different perspective,” she said.
“It will be a great mental and emotional step for Ryan to be able to stand up and have that perspective on his own.”
Straschnitzki did not tell his parents what he did. They knew it when they saw a short video he posted on Twitter.
Tom Straschnitski said he didn’t think his son was worth mentioning.
“I went” Wow, buddy! That’s a big deal. You did it yourself, “he said. “He thought it wasn’t a big deal.” This is exactly what we are doing, “he said.
Michelle Straschnitski was thrilled.
“It was very nice and touching. Above all, I was shocked.”
“It’s pretty cool.”