CALGARY — Ryan Straschnitzki is involved in the toughest game of his life.
Seven weeks after being paralyzed from the chest down when a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team crashed, he has embarked on the thing a lot of athletes dread — two-a-day workouts.
It was his choice to undertake twice daily physiotherapy sessions at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary.
“It’s tough, but it’s worth it for sure,” said Straschnitzki in an interview with The Canadian Press from his hospital bed. “I’m better. Physio’s getting better. I’m feeling a lot better. Everything’s healing perfectly — I’ve still got some soreness and what not.”
Recently he was learning to move himself from his wheelchair to a bed during physio with the use of a slide board. It took a long time.
He also worked at turning over on his side. That involved locking his hands together and rocking back and forth. He finally achieved it, but there was a look of pain on his face and he immediately grabbed his shoulder.
Straschnitzki was badly hurt in the accident: a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, a punctured lung and bleeding in his head and pelvic area.
“So many upper body injuries. It’s kind of amazing that my body was able to survive and I could get out of that alive. I’m just so grateful.”
The April 6 collision between the team’s bus and a tractor-trailer at a rural intersection in Saskatchewan is still being investigated. The Broncos were on their way to a playoff game. Sixteen people were killed and 13 were injured. RCMP have only said the truck was in the intersection when the crash occurred.
“There’s all sorts of mixed emotions really — anger could be one of those. It’s kind of tough to talk about sometimes. It’s not all the time, but it’s once in a while.”
Straschnitzki keeps in touch with his teammates through online group chats. During the interview, his cellphone dinged steadily as he received more and more texts.
He said his friend Jacob Wasserman, the team’s goaltender, is also paralyzed, but from the navel down. Both are interested in playing sledge hockey once their recovery is complete.
Straschnitzki spends his day in rehab and with video games. Giant containers of potato chips and beef jerky are close at hand.
He’s had a lot of visitors, including Canadian wheelchair athlete Rick Hansen
“He’s a really great guy and really inspirational for sure,” Straschnitzki said.
“He told me there’s more to a person than their legs … you don’t let it get you down and you get up and do something about it. You just keep pushing through.”
One of Straschnitzki’s aims is to walk again.
“That’s the big goal in mind. If I can be able to push myself and do that … then that proves it to everyone. I’ve heard some news which is pretty tragic, but doctors have always been wrong before,” he said.
“I think just having the mindset that you can do this for sure will help.”