Administration and Leadership, Columns

The National EMS Memorial Capital-to-Capital Bike Ride is Underway

Entry 2: 100+ Miles Covered on Day 1

“Oh Can-a-da”…

OK, maybe those are the only words of the anthem I know right now, but I should have it nailed down in a few days. I plan to also become fluent in French by the time we enter Montreal. So far all I know is buenos dias. But seriously, senores and senoritas, Ottawa, Canada! What a beautiful place to begin our cycling adventure for the Capital-to-Capital Bike Ride. Wouldn’t you know it though, our send-off began on Parliament Hill. Why does it have to be a hill? At least we pedaled the rest of the day’s 100 miles on flat land and the weather was very comfortable. Maybe I should use kilometers when I speak of distance. It is a higher, more impressive number: 160 km. Better yet, we cycled 492,403,203 inches today.

On a more serious note, I am amazed (but not surprised) by the wonderful EMS providers this ride has brought together, both Canadian and American. I will try to bring some of their stories into my daily entries, because they represent the essence of this ride and of the most honorable compassionate people who serve our profession.

Hats off to Norm Robillard, an Ottawa paramedic who is the co-founder and key organizer of this year’s Capital-to-Capital Bike Ride. I met Norm during last year’s East Coast National EMS Memorial Bike Ride when he spoke of creating a cycling event to help draw attention to the stigma of mental illness for public safety police officers, firefighters, 9-1-1 dispatchers and EMS providers. PTSD, depression, addiction and the on-going suicide epidemic that is happening on both sides of the border.

Add to this Norm’s dedication to help create legislation passage for Ontario’s first responders to ensure compensation for PTSD. Known as Bill 163, EMS providers will now be covered when dealing with mental health issues as a direct result of their work in the prehospital environment.

Today’s ride included more than 80 cyclists and support staff. Over half of the riders rode only for today, while the remaining riders will continue on the journey to Boston before hooking up with the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride for the remaining last half of the ride. Some cyclists will complete their journey when this first half of the event ends, while others like myself hope to continue to the very end. And when I say “end” I mean the conclusion of the ride.

The country roads heading toward Montreal followed the Ottawa River while thousands of geese occasionally flew in formation above the river, no doubt wondering what the flock they were seeing as we cycled below them in parade formation of twos. The purpose of riding side-by-side with another cyclist was to help us know where each of us comes from professionally and, more importantly, why each of us is riding in relation to the cause we have all so passionately embraced.

My body aches as I yearn for bed before we begin again tomorrow, but my mind is swimming with thoughts as I reflect on the wonderful camaraderie, beautiful scenery and personal stories I have already seen on this first day.

One visual of today that stands out is that of the Canadian flag that was flying high off a Hudson Fire Department ladder truck when we arrived for a generous dinner they had provided for us at their station. I noticed hundreds of individual writings and signatures on the flag. I was informed that this was a flag Canada had given New York City following the 9/11 terrorist attack to support our nation’s grief. Two nations came together at a time of great personal pain. Now in our own little way we join together again to support each other’s pain. This is a pain that can be prevented, but only if we have the courage to admit that heroes are human too.

There is rain and cold in the forecast early tomorrow morning, but it doesn’t matter right now. I am in a good place with good people who “get it.” Now, if I can just get past the first two words of the Canadian national anthem.

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