Administration and Leadership, Columns

Riders Pedal for ‘the Missing Partner’ & PTSD Awareness in National EMS Memorial Capital-to-Capital Bike Ride

Entry 11: The Missing Partner

Princeton, N.J., to Wilmington, Del., today. A total of 73 miles cycled, and an awesome lunch with the IAFF Local 22 Hall of the Philadelphia Fire Department, who provided us with delicious food. There is always great food being served by the local EMS and fire agencies we pass through, and by our support staff. It is no wonder I never lose any weight during these events despite burning 345,921 calories per day.

I try to make up for my gluttonous act of self-indulgent dining by pushing my cycling efforts a little harder so that my body consumes every food particle it just took in. OK, in reality I pedal hard from one place to the next just so I can get to the next meal as soon as possible.

This afternoon I was pushing exceptionally hard, as I wanted to not only get out of the rain we had been experiencing all afternoon, but to also have my body vaporize my recent food intake before it had the chance to convert it to blubber.

I was moving along pretty well and feeling good about myself until one biker by the name of Martin Tessier came up from behind me and passed me quite easily while riding his tandem bicycle. Tandems, of course, are made to be ridden by two cyclists, but Martin, since he began this ride in Ottawa some 11 days ago, has for the most part been riding his tandem by himself without a backseat driver to tell him to slow the hell down. Martin is a paramedic from Ottawa Services and has always had a passion for cycling, but this is his first time riding a tandem, which he just purchased three weeks before this ride. Now why he chose to ride a tandem for close to 1,000 miles for this particular event is beyond me.

During initial introductions, Martin informed the other riders that his tandem partner had to cancel his participation in the Capital-to-Capital Ride at the last moment due to a personal emergency. I wasn’t buying it though. Who brings a heavy tandem bicycle to ride for such a great distance without a partner to share the burden of cycling? There was more to this story, and I finally had a chance to hook up with Martin tonight over a beer at the hotel’s bar.

Martin’s interest in the ride focused on the issue of PTSD and he felt he had to be a part of it when he attended Ontario’s legislative passage of Bill 163, which ensures compensation coverage for first responders suffering from PTSD. Martin said he wanted to be more than just a rider for the event however. He wanted to add a visual symbolic contribution during the ride that conveyed “the missing partner.”

Martin had a very good EMS partner for five years while working on the ambulance, but more than that he had a friend whom he cared for very much. They had each other’s back in more than just medicine. I smiled and nodded for I knew, like you, exactly what kind of partner he was talking about. The kind of partner where you both can run a call without saying a word to each other or crack a joke under any circumstances.

Martin once had to take personal leave of this job for six months, and he lost contact with his partner. Not by his choice mind you, as he had tried multiple times to keep in contact with his friend, but without any success. He later found out that his partner had also taken personal leave during the same time. Martin was already worried about his friend and partner, who had recently become more distant from others and appeared more openly angry toward his co-workers and patients. He recalls his partner once saying, “If I see three more jumpers, I’m gonna crack.” Martin has still not spoken with his partner, but he did say the words “thank you” were sent by text to him from his partner just before he left for the ride.

Martin said he is afraid of PTSD. Not that he feels he has experienced it, but he says he has seen the symptoms in other co-workers in addition to his partner who exhibited these signs.

Martin hopes the half-empty tandem symbolizes the missing partner who suffers from PTSD. “I don’t just miss my partner,” Martin said. “I miss my friend. I do know this though. After the ride is complete, I’m going to go over to his house and make contact. I’m going to be there for him.”

It’s hard to share a tandem with a partner who doesn’t know your moves or how to arrive at your destination in a synchronized fashion. It’s even harder to climb the hills alone.

Previous entries:

Entry 10: Honoring Our 9/11 Heroes in NYC
Entry 10: Honoring Our 9/11 Heroes in NYC