After Experimental Surgery, Paralyzed Hockey Player Moves His Legs

"He was as surprised as the rest of us, I think."

Ryan Straschnitzki was paralyzed after a truck driver crashed into his hockey team's bus, an accident that killed 16 people and injured 13 more.

Now, after an experimental surgery in Thailand, Straschnitzki is moving his legs again. Straschnitzki was paralyzed from the chest down.

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"He was as surprised as the rest of us, I think. It just blows me away," Straschnitzki's mother told CBC. "It's all blowing me away, just his determination and stick-to-it-iveness. It shouldn't be surprising anymore, but it really does knock the wind out of me."

In a Facebook video posted online, Straschnitzki can be seen moving his legs with the help of a therapist. Doctors say they implanted an epidural stimulator in his spine and with a remote control can send electric signals down his spinal cord to help move his limbs. The process bypasses the usual nervous system, and with its help he can start to move his legs. 

Straschnitzki says he was inspired by Dr. Richi Gill, a Canadian surgeon who was paralyzed in an accident and then had the surgery last year. It costs up to $100,000 and isn't covered by healthcare or insurance, and doctors involved in the surgery said he will continue to progress. 

"Where he can go from here with optimization, further follow-up and tuning of his parameters will be important," Dr. Aaron Phillips, a professor at University of Calgary, told CBC. "He can probably get to a higher ceiling than what you're seeing now, and even far higher."

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