By Lyonel Doherty
We sometimes think of paramedics as tough as nails heroes who are indestructible. How can they die since they are the ones doing all the saving?
But they’re only human.
This was made clear by a group of 45 riders that cycled through Osoyoos and Oliver on its way to Kamloops this week.
The Tour Paramedic Ride started in Osoyoos on June 7 and ends in Kamloops on June 10.
The riders are raising money in support of constructing a monument in Ottawa to commemorate paramedics who lost their lives in the line of duty (since 1988).
For example, Tony Sunderland was BC’s first paramedic to die on duty in 1988. He collapsed and died of a heart attack while attending two patients in a motor vehicle accident near Endako.
Theresa Bond, 42, was the unit chief in Atlin when she died in a plane crash in 1990 enroute to a unit chief’s meeting in Smithers. She left three sons behind.
Carol Schlamp and her partner were returning to their station after a day of working in the Fraser Valley when their ambulance struck a rock wall on Highway 1 near Hope.
Wendy Thompson and Andy Goedicke died when a Lear jet enroute to a med-evac flew into the Pacific Ocean on a winter night in 1995. It was reported that the jet’s altimeters were set incorrectly.
Kim Weitzel and Shawn Currier responded to a drowning call in a tailings pond at a decommissioned mine in Kimberly in 2006. They were overcome and became the third and fourth victims of low oxygen atmosphere.
In 2008, Mike Gray, 39, collapsed while driving the ambulance after clearing from Vancouver General Hospital. The ambulance struck several parked cars but neither his partner nor any bystanders were injured.
Ivan Polivka and his partner Jo-Ann Fuller were returning from transporting a patient to hospital near Port Alberni when their ambulance tumbled down a steep embankment and plunged into Kennedy Lake in 2010. Polivka, 65, was to retire soon. He lost his wife to cancer the previous year.
Paramedic rider Paul Juszko said the tour reflects a lot of things, such as the challenges and struggles that first responders experience.
“It recognizes and validates that we are no different than the patients we care for, prone to physical and mental injury.”
Juszko noted the ride bring awareness to the public regarding the commitment and sacrifice that paramedics make daily.
He pointed out that paramedics have similar mindsets and victories, and each of them has limitations as well.
“Certainly this (ride) provides a needed time to build healthy relationships and commodore with colleagues across the nation.”