Paralyzed Humboldt Bronco takes first steps after Thailand surgery

Ryan Straschnitzki has taken his first steps since being paralyzed in the Humboldt bus crash 19 months ago, thanks to a cutting-edge surgery performed in Thailand.

Tom Straschnitzki, Ryan's father, posted a video of the feat on Twitter.

"It's the first time he's moved his legs since before the accident," Ryan's mom, Michelle Straschnitzki, told CBC News.

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"I just don't even really have the words. I'm just so incredibly thankful, and proud of him and all that they're accomplishing over there," she said.

Straschnitzki is at a hospital in Thailand recovering from the surgery, in which an epidural stimulator was implanted in his spine to help restore movement.

"He's as amazed as we are, I think. He didn't know they would come this quickly. It's certainly very, very positive," Michelle said.

The 20-year-old from Airdrie, Alta., was one of 13 players injured when an inexperienced truck driver blew through a stop sign and collided with the Saskatchewan junior hockey team's bus in April 2018. Sixteen others on the bus died.

Uyen Nguyen, executive director of Synaptic, a spinal cord injury centre in Calgary, said she's "very, very hopeful" that this technology will become more widespread.

"I think my ultimate hope, my Christmas wish, would be that this becomes the first line of defence for people with spinal cord injuries, instead of the last line of defence, and that Canadians would be able to stay at home to receive this type of therapy, and not have to travel across the globe to get it done," Nguyen said.

Straschnitzki hopes to make the national sledge hockey team and compete in the Paralympics. He will remain in Thailand until early December, but he has his hockey sled with him so he can stay sharp abroad. 

"Stay tuned, because I don't think this is all there is yet," said Michelle.

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