Only two days after undergoing surgery to have an epidural stimulator implanted into his injured back, Airdrie's Ryan Straschnitzki has started therapy and has moved his legs on his own with only minimal guidance from a therapist.
Straschnitzki left for Thailand on Saturday and had the surgery on Monday evening. His mother Michelle says after receiving the implant, her son was in considerable discomfort.
She says "It was about two hours for the operation procedure, two hours for the recovery. He came out of the recovery and he was really uncomfortable for the first, I don't know, quite a few hours. Had a little bit of a rest and then he seemed to be a bit more settled after that. He started his therapy yesterday (Tuesday). "
Michelle explains the therapy started with something called mapping. "Which is sort of training the nerves and the neural system how to respond when he sends certain signals down, I guess, and has gone right back to rehab, which is remarkable."
The stimulator sends electrical currents to the spinal cord to stimulate nerves to move his legs and allow him more core control. The implant can be programmed to stimulate certain nerves that are mapped out by the surgeons and therapists.
Tom, Ryan's father who accompanied his son to Thailand, posted a video on Twitter that shows Ryan moving his legs on his own with only minimal guidance from his therapist.
Michelle says both Ryan and his doctors are extremely pleased with how he's doing following surgery.
"From what I gather, everything went very, very well. The doctors are very pleased with how his body took to it and with how he's reacting to it. He's working hard already and it looks like it's doing what it's supposed to do. It's helping him move his legs with a little bit of guidance so far, and a little bit of brainpower I guess. He's starting to show some improvements."
Ryan is scheduled to spend about five weeks in Thailand. Michelle says he'll be working hard during his time at the hospital and is also hoping to continue his sledge hockey training.
She says "He'll be doing the mapping and the physio every day of the week for about seven hours a day. Then he'll have from about 4:00 in the evening and the weekends to himself. I'm guessing he's probably going to get on the ice as soon as he can."
Ryan has been on the ice as much as he can in Canada with a dream of making the Canadian Paralympics Team.
Michelle says all the hard work that Ryan has been putting in has given him a leg up on others that have undergone the surgery. "Because of all his work with Synaptic (Synaptic Spinal Cord Injury and Neuro Rehabilitation Centre) here he's a bit further ahead of the game, which is good. But also it's progressed a little quicker than they expected, so they're very pleased."
Pleasing, but not surprising to those who have watched Ryan's progression since being paralyzed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in April 2018.
"He's absolutely blown us away," says his mom. "I know he's blown a lot of people away. We can't say just how proud we are of him. He's just unreal."