Edmonton police officer, paramedic, firefighter run half marathon in uniform for PTSD awareness

By Julia Wong,
Digital Broadcast Journalist Global News

A group of three women tackled the Edmonton Marathon on Sunday with a visual reminder that first responders can sometimes carry the burden of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Police officer Sylvie Boy, firefighter Jessica LaMer and paramedic Amy Benson ran the 21-kilometre race wearing their uniforms and gear, which for LaMer included an oxygen tank.

The idea came from Boy, an eight-year veteran of Edmonton Police Service, who also served eight years in the French military.

“A lot of our brothers and sisters are suffering from PTSD,” she said.

Boy said she has not suffered from PTSD but has seen the toll it has taken on her colleagues.

“It starts with anger, withdrawal… everything seems impossible to move on. There’s anger. I’ve seen alcoholism.”

The women are raising money for Wounded Warriors, an organization that helps and supports military members, veterans and first responders.

Boy, who had never run a half marathon before, was anxious before the race but eager to participate.

LaMer, who has been a firefighter for 21 years, said the group wanted to have a visual impact on spectators.

“So they take notice and say, ‘Huh, why are these girls all in their gear?’ We’re trying to bring awareness to an issue that’s often hidden,” she said.

LaMer said she hopes wearing the uniform and gear will remind Edmontonians about the struggles first responders can face.

“Maybe they’ll understand a little more that we deal with a lot of stuff in our jobs that other people don’t have to deal with.”

Benson, the only one in the group who had experience running marathons, said running has helped her cope with the calls she responds to as a paramedic, citing the time she treated a patient who looked like her little brother.

“There was nothing more I could for him. You do your best, every day. When you can’t do anything more, there’s this feeling of powerlessness and that’s, I think, what causes a lot of trauma,” she said, adding regaining the sense of control can help combat it.

Though she has running experience, Benson said she would not be leaving her teammates’ sides – the trio ran side-by-side the whole race.

The women finished the half marathon in two hours, 19 minutes.

The group has raised more than $10,000, surpassing its goal. Donations are being accepted until the end of the month.