One of the young Canadian hockey players paralyzed in a fatal bus accident in April has arrived at the Philadelphia Shriners Hospitals for Children to continue his rehabilitation.
Ryan Straschnitzki, 19, and his father, Tom, got up about 3 a.m. to catch their medical flight from Calgary, Alberta. Twelve hours later, the ambulance transporting them from Philadelphia International Airport arrived at the hospital on North Broad Street and was immediately swarmed by reporters and photographers.
"I just keep my teammates in my heart and every day set new goals and challenges," Straschnitzki said in the news conference that quickly followed his arrival. He is expected to be in Philadelphia for six to eight weeks.
Straschnitzki suffered a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collarbone, a punctured lung, and bleeding in his head and pelvis when the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos collided with a semitrailer on a rural highway April 6. The team, composed of players ages 16 to 21, was on the way to a playoff game. Sixteen people were killed and 13 were injured. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have said the truck was in the intersection when the crash occurred, though the crash is still being investigated, according to news reports.
Since the crash, Straschnitzki has been receiving therapy at Calgary's Foothills Medical Centre. Local Shriners reached out to the family to help with his care, his father said.
Donations and well wishes for the team have poured in from across Canada and the United States, Tom Straschnitzki said.
"It's been a world of support," he said, adding that the families of the players have remained close during the ordeal.
In Philadelphia, Straschnitzki will receive at least three hours a day of therapy that will focus on restoring as much function as possible and working on everyday skills such as dressing, learning how to transition from a bed to a wheelchair, and how to navigate in a wheelchair.
"We got his records and determined he was a great candidate for rehab," said Kimberly D. Curran, nurse and care manager at the Philadelphia Shriners.
The nonprofit Shriners hospitals provide specialized care for spinal cord injuries, orthopedic conditions, burns, and surgeries for cleft lips and palates. The sole Canadian Shriners hospital, in Montreal, did not offer the specific care Straschnitzki would need to recover from a spinal cord injury, so the family opted to come to Philadelphia, which sees paralyzed patients every day. The medical transportation cost was covered by Al-Azhar Shriners of Calgary. Any costs for treatment not covered by the family's insurance will be picked up by the Shriners endowment fund.
After about four weeks of inpatient treatment, Ryan will transition to an outpatient setting for more rehab, and then will return to Calgary to continue his treatment.
Straschnitzki uses Facetime to keep in touch with his teammates. Humboldt, a farming community of 6,000 where the team played, is in Saskatchewan, about 450 miles east of Calgary.
"We're really strongly bonded," he said of his team.
A Chicago Black Hawks fan, Straschnitzki said he had hoped to play in the NHL.