For the first time in 15 months, Ryan Straschnitzki is back to sleeping in his own bed.
After more than a year of staying at hospitals and hotels, the 19-year-old survivor of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash and his family moved back into their home in the Prairie Springs neighbourhood, April 26, in an emotional homecoming.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Straschnitzki, who was paralyzed from the chest down in the April 6, 2018, collision. “The work the people have done – it’s a huge change and I’m really excited.”
The family had been out of their home since July 2018, while the house underwent renovations to accommodate Straschnitzki’s accessibility needs.
Renovations included installing an elevator in the garage, which connects to the basement and the main floor. The basement, where Straschnitzki’s room is located, changed dramatically. A notable addition is the “Jarvis” home-automation system, which allows Straschnitzki to change the temperature, dim the lights, raise the curtains and perform other tasks through a wall-mounted computer. Further refurbishments in the basement included adding an accessible bathroom and shower, as well as a kitchenette and a large TV-viewing area.
“I’ve never lived in a house like this before and it’s just incredible,” Straschnitzki said, adding it will allow for more independence.
“My mom had the waterworks going and I think that explains how everyone was feeling. It’s amazing and I can’t wait to get settled in.”
While the family initially expected to return home by October 2018, the renovations experienced significant delays, which led to the Straschnitzki clan staying in hotels for seven months longer than expected.
A main issue was the garage floor, which had to be re-poured after sinking 50 centimetres. There were also problems with the wiring, and the wooden floors had to be ripped up and replaced.
“The house wasn’t very well built – West Ridge [Fine Homes] had to fix all the deficiencies,” said Ryan’s father, Tom. “Once that was done, it sped along.”
The move-in was marked with a large party April 26, attended by friends, family and media.
“The community coming together like this, coming to visit me – it’s pretty special,” Straschnitzki said. “Words can’t describe the effort everyone put in, and it’s just absolutely amazing.”
Tom said the highlight of moving back home was seeing his son’s jaw drop when he saw the basement.
“His face lit up like it did back in July, when it was his first time back on the ice,” said Tom, referring to Straschnitzki’s first time playing sledge hockey following the crash.
“I don’t think we slept much, just anticipating coming here. But we hadn’t seen the house in two months, so we weren’t sure what it was going to look like. We came in, our jaws dropped. The work [of] TJ Stewart and West Ridge Homes just floored us.”
Another highlight, according to Tom, was seeing all the Straschnitzki’s old neighbours from Prairie Springs there to greet them when they arrived.
“As we pulled in, we saw all the neighbours on the opposite side of our house standing there,” he said. “Everyone came out. We pulled in and they were all smiling – that was the best part.”