Day 6

Humboldt survivor paralyzed from the chest down says he's not done with hockey

Ryan Straschnitzki survived last weekend's deadly crash. He broke his back and neck, but he's keen to get back on the ice.

Ryan Straschnitzki says he's grateful for all the support from Canadians and from people around the world

Humboldt Broncos defenceman Ryan Straschnitzki, before and after the crash. (Tom Straschnitzki via Twitter)

Ryan Straschnitzki says he's a little "tired and sore" but overall "not bad."

The defenceman with the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team is at Saskatoon's Royal University Hospital coping with the pain of his injuries from last weekend's deadly highway accident.

His neck and back are broken, and he is paralyzed from the chest down.

Still, he says, he is "just pushing through it, because pain is temporary."

Last week — just hours after the crash — Day 6 host Brent Bambury spoke with Ryan's father Tom Straschnitzki.

This week, he was able to connect directly with Ryan, who spoke to Day 6 from his hospital bed in Saskatoon.

Brent Bambury: I want to go back to last Friday night's crash. What's the last thing you remember before the impact?

Ryan Straschnitzki: Just the bus driver yelling, slamming on the brakes — and the last text I sent to my girlfriend.

So the impact happened, and then what?

And then I woke up. I don't know how much later. I was facing the bus. I saw my teammates in front of me they were moaning in pain and the first thing I wanted to do was get up and help but I couldn't move my legs and was sort of panicking. But then a civilian came and aided me and the EMS got me and rushed me to the hospital in Nipawin.

The wreckage of the fatal crash outside of Tisdale, Sask., on Saturday, April, 7. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Did you have any injuries that meant that you were bleeding or in danger of losing consciousness?

Yeah, my face was bloodied and my arms were bloodied all over, but nothing too serious. 

Was there ever a moment when you thought you might not make it?

Yeah, I had my doubts, but once I ended up in the hospital they took great care of me and that thought disappeared.

Earlier this week you got a visit from the first responder who helped you at the scene of the crash. She says that you are her inspiration. How does that make you feel?

It's awesome knowing that even though I'm just some ordinary guy, I can help inspire people. It just makes me feel great. That's what I want to do — I want to make people feel that they have someone to look up to, even if they're not doing so well.

Tom Straschnitzki visiting his son, Humboldt crash survivor Ryan Straschnitzki, at Saskatoon's Royal University Hospital. (Tom Straschnitzki via Twitter)

When we spoke with your dad — just a few hours after the crash — he told me about the first telephone call he had with you. He told us that you kept asking about your teammates and your coaches — and that he didn't think you quite knew everything yet at that point. Do you remember that?

Yeah, I do remember that. That's all I cared about. I was getting to the point of being an annoyance, where the doctors just said, 'try to keep it down and wait to see what happens.' But that's all that mattered, was how my teammates and coaches and trainers were doing.

What was that like for you, when you when you heard the whole extent of what had happened?

It was devastating for sure. All the guys that didn't make it, obviously heartbroken — our bond was so close as a team. But the guys that are still kicking, I'm rooting for them and you know our bond is, again, so strong that I think together we can get through it.

Your dad told me that you're a real team player.

Yeah, for sure. I'm a 'team first' mentality kind of guy, and I lay my life on the line to help the team succeed.

Michelle Straschnitzki visiting her son, Humboldt crash survivor Ryan Straschnitzki, at Saskatoon's Royal University Hospital. (Tom Straschnitzki via Twitter)

So what was it like for you when your dad and mom walked in the door of your hospital room in Saskatoon?

Definitely heartwarming, knowing that they made the trip and I got to hug them and they were all warm and fuzzy, so it was really good to see them.

Are you following the way the country is reacting to this and pulling for you and all of the survivors of the crash?

Yeah, it's surreal. The amount of support we're getting and who we're getting support from. It doesn't matter who you are, just any type of support is awesome. It just shows how great Canadians, and people around the world, are.

A cartoon by Bruce MacKinnon, published on April 11, 2018, in the Halifax Chronicle Herald. (Bruce MacKinnon/Halifax Chronicle Herald)

What was your reaction when you learned about the scope of your own injuries?

My first thoughts were, 'we're going to get through this.' You know, I'm still breathing and kicking. So there's always that second chance of hope, and I know I can get through it.

What's next for you? What do you see yourself doing next?

I just take it day by day. It's hard to tell right now, but if I'm unable to skate again then I'll try sledge hockey and try out for the Olympic team. And I'll just keep doing what I'm doing — inspiring people.

It sounds like nothing can get in the way of your love for this game.

No, nothing.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

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