There’s a positivity that emanates from Ryan Straschnitzki that you wouldn’t expect from a young man who has gone through a horrific tragedy.
Yet, there he was out in front of the media on Wednesday morning talking about the crash that killed 16 of his friends, mentors and teammates, his paralysis and his hopes for the future.
Straschnitzki was in the middle of the bus when the collision with a semi happened on the evening of April 6.
He thinks his choice of location very likely saved his life.
“That was lucky, to be honest, because certain people in my area didn’t make it and I don’t think it’s hit me yet.”
He explained that he was texting his girlfriend and getting ready for the game when the crash happened.
He heard a shout and everything went black.
“Woke up, however long later. My back was against the semi and I saw my teammates in front of me. My first instinct was to get up and try and help but I couldn’t move my body I just, it was terrible,” Straschnitzki said.
Straschnitzki is paralyzed from his chest down. Through rehab, he’s relearning to use his muscles in a whole new way, adjusting to having his body in a wheelchair and will eventually gain the strength needed to feed and change himself without assistance — to live independently.
Still, he hopes for more.
“I’m just hoping one day I get to that point where I’ll be able to walk again. Some people will say I won’t be able to but I kind of want to prove them wrong and each day just do something more and more, sit in the chair longer, try and sit up longer, just little things like that.”
He also hopes to get back on the ice and get into sledge hockey.
He knows he has the support of millions of Canadians. Visits from celebrities and athletes have buoyed his spirit.
And when he gets down, which he said he does at times, he depends on the ones who have been with him through it all and knows what he’s been through: his surviving teammates.
“We have a group chat and every day we’re texting in there and if somebody needs someone to talk to we’ll contact them and talk to them, but I think after all this we’re closer.”
His fight through the pain – he wakes up every two hours because of it – and his optimism for his future is for the teammates, coaches and team support staff that didn’t make it and to hopefully inspire others.
“If you’re negative, I don’t think anything can be done … You can change people’s lives in your positive even though circumstances may say otherwise. I think being positive helps so much. It’ll help me heal for sure.”
Straschnitzki was released from the hospital in Saskatoon last week and continues his recovery at a hospital in Calgary, Alberta, a short drive away from his home in Airdrie.
— with files from The Canadian Press