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'Quite optimistic:' Injured Bronco player has spinal surgery in Thailand

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BANGKOK — A hockey player paralyzed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash has received spinal surgery in Thailand that he hopes will restore some of his movement.

Doctors on Monday implanted an epidural stimulator in Ryan Straschnitzki's spine.

The 20-year-old from Airdrie, Alta., is to remain in Thailand until early December.

"The doctor said it went very well. He's quite optimistic," Michelle Straschnitzki said after receiving an update from her husband, who travelled with their son to Asia.

"He's got a long couple of weeks for recovery, and he's pretty well out of it right now."

Straschnitzki was one of 13 players who were injured when an inexperienced truck driver blew through a stop sign and into the path of the Saskatchewan junior hockey team's bus in April 2018. Sixteen others on the bus died.

Straschnitzki, who was paralyzed from the chest down, has said he isn't expecting a cure but hopes the implant will restore some muscle movement and things such as bladder control.

A small device like a remote control is to send electrical currents to his spinal cord to try to stimulate nerves and move limbs. The implant is to be programmed over the next few weeks to stimulate certain nerves mapped out by surgeons and therapists.

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 is hoping to make Canada's national sledge hockey team and go to the Paralympics. He took his hockey sled to Thailand with him to stay sharp during his stay.

"Before he went in, he texted a guy out here about ice time for Wednesday," his father said on Twitter just before the surgery.

"Ha, ha. What a kid."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 4, 2019.

— By Bill Graveland in Calgary

The Canadian Press




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