Red Deer students learned what is possible with persistence and a positive attitude from a Humboldt Broncos bus crash survivor who is determined to walk again.
Ryan Straschnitzki, who was left with a spinal cord injury after the April 2018 collision that killed 16 people and injured 13, told students at Don Campbell Elementary School they should chase their dreams.
“If you can persevere through any sort of adversity, if you have the right mindset, honestly anything can be achieved. You can take it from me. I took my first steps a few months ago and doctors told me I would never walk again. That’s just all mindset,” said Straschnitzki, speaking in front of Grade 4 students on Friday morning.
The presentation, which was Straschnitzki’s first school address, was also live streamed to the other classrooms.
Straschnitzki, who lives in Airdrie, had an epidural stimulator implanted in his spine in Thailand two years ago. The device sends electrical currents to his spinal cord to try to stimulate nerves and move limbs. In the summer, he was able to take his first steps with the help of three physical therapists.
He said taking those first few steps was pretty surreal.
“I didn’t expect it to happen that fast. For spinal cord injuries, the rehab time can be years and years so taking my first steps that soon was pretty exciting,” said the sledge hockey athlete who will be focusing on walking with less and less assistance over time.
Straschnitzki said he wanted to share his story with students to hopefully help them face future challenges.
He told students it wasn’t his skill, but his commitment to working hard, that allowed him to succeed in hockey, and he continues to push himself.
“You either succeed or you learn. There’s no such thing as failure. Every time I’m on and ice and fall, or I mess up, or when I’m in rehab and something doesn’t work properly, I don’t see it as failure.
“It’s about perseverance and pushing through. Whatever happened in the past, is the past. It’s what we’re able to do now that’s going to get us to success.”
Straschnitzki does physiotherapy three days a week, practices sledge hockey three or four times a week and trains just as often.
He just finished camp for the provincial team. Camps will be held each month where players could be selected for the national development team, and possibly the Canadian Paralympic team.
“My goal in life is to win a gold medal and bring it back to all the people that shared their positive messages with me. I want to share it with them because they helped me get where I am today and are going to help me get where I want to be.”
— With files from The Canadian Press