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A hockey player from Alberta who was paralyzed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash has begun moving his legs after receiving experimental spinal surgery in Thailand — nearly kicking his therapist and asking if he could hit the gym.
Ryan Straschnitzki, a 20-year-old from Airdrie, Alta., was one of 13 junior hockey team players injured when a truck driver blew through a stop sign and collided with the Saskatchewan team's bus, killing 16 others.
Straschnitzki was paralyzed from the chest down.
On Monday, doctors in Thailand implanted an epidural stimulator in Straschnitzki's spine in the hope that it could restore some movement below the level of his injury.
Paralyzed Humboldt Broncos hockey player to get spinal surgery in Thailand
CALGARY — A hockey player paralyzed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash is to depart on a 12,000-kilometre journey to Thailand later this week for surgery that could help restore some of his movement. And one thing Ryan Straschnitzki is determined to take with him is his hockey sled. "I'll be gone for five weeks," the 20-year-old told The Canadian Press following a gruelling physiotherapy workout. "If you do anything and work at it for so long, and then not do it for a month, you might be a little rusty."Straschnitzki, who is paralyzed from the chest down, hopes to make the national sledge hockey team.
With the use of a small device like a remote control, the implant sends electrical currents to the spinal cord to stimulate nerves and move his limbs, bypassing traditional pathways.
The implant can be programmed to stimulate certain nerves mapped out by surgeons and therapists.
In a video shared by his family on Twitter on Wednesday, Straschnitzki is seen lying on his back while doctors help him through the rehabilitation process after the surgery.
Watch Ryan Straschnitzki move his leg in this video posted by his family:
"One time, (Ryan) almost kicked the therapist — oops," reads the post on @strazsr's Twitter feed, shared by a member of Straschnitzki's family.
"Therapist is only holding his leg. Ryan is moving it. Then Ryan asks if he can go work out at the mall gym after. The stunned therapist said NO. You just had surgery. Seriously, son. Ha ha."
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Straschnitzki is expected to remain in Thailand until December.
He was inspired to try the procedure by Dr. Richi Gill, a Calgary surgeon who had the operation last year after he was paralyzed in an accident.
Only a half-dozen people in Canada have had it done abroad and only about 30 worldwide.
The surgery can cost up to $100,000 and isn't covered by health care or insurance. It is also performed in countries such as the United States and Switzerland, but it's much cheaper in Thailand.
Straschnitzki had expressed hope that the implant might help him restore some muscle movement.
He's hoping to make Canada's Paralympics team and to compete in Canada's national sledge hockey team.
Prior to his surgery on Monday, his family shared another post on Twitter.
"Before he went in, he texted a guy out here about ice time for (Wednesday)," the post reads. "Ha ha. What a kid."
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