Ryan Straschnitzki, a former junior hockey player with life-altering injuries from the 2018 Humboldt Broncos bus crash, talks about how one surgery overseas has helped him so far. 

“Back in November 2019, I had surgery done in Thailand. It was called the Epidural Stimulator Implant Surgery and it was placed in the T 10 vertebrae.” 

There are different electrodes on the Epidural Stimulator Implant with different programs to use for certain movements. The signals from the brain get shot up over top of the break of Straschnitzki’s spinal cord injury, allowing for some movement below his injury. 

Straschnitzki, paralyzed from the chest down due to the bus crash, is one of four individuals with spinal cord injuries in Calgary this week to have the epidural stimulators in their spines reprogrammed. The planned upgrade includes mapping the complex interaction between nerves and muscles. 

Ryan Straz

Ever since the surgery back in 2019, Straschnitzki says he’s made a lot of progress. 

“The recovery has been good. I try to use the simulator as much as I can at physio and hockey. At physio, what we do, is essentially try assisted standing where I'll use a certain standing program that allows me to send signals down to my legs to stay rigid so I can stand with the least amount of assistance as possible.” 

Ryan Straz

Straschnitzki currently does assisted walking, going through the motions, trying to get the signals from his brain to his body to work again, to help repair spinal cord regeneration growth. 

“At hockey, for trunk control, because I'm such a high injury, I don't have core muscles at work. There are certain programs that allow my core muscles to contract, allowing me to perform better.” 

What’s next, according to Straschnitzki, is to remap this device to the point where he doesn’t need any assistance to walk. 

Ryan Straz

Straschnitzki has been playing sled hockey for the past two years and says he has a great coach and teammates who are all very encouraging. 

“It's been incredible. I'm having fun and excelling at the sport.” 

Send your news tips, story ideas, pictures, and videos to news@discoverairdrie.com