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Edmonton hospital staff tell first responders: ‘We’ve got your back’

WATCH ABOVE: Paramedics and hospital staff cross paths daily in the emergency room. Now, the U of A emergency department is finding another way to say thank you. Kendra Slugoski reports.

EDMONTON — ‘I’ve Got Your Back 911’ started as a movement in Ontario by a group of paramedics in late 2014. The hashtag spread on social media, sharing the message of support for first responders and raising the profile of issues like mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The message was later put on T-shirts and used as a fundraiser.

Staff at the University of Alberta and Stollery Children’s Hospital wanted to show their support for the cause.

“It was just sort of born out of a ‘let’s see how much support we can really generate for these men and women that do this job that most of us can’t really imagine doing,'” explained Emma Treadwell, a registered nurse at the Stollery emergency department.

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“We organized a group order for the nurses, doctors, LPNs, nursing attendants in emergency and ended up with about 145 shirts being ordered and over $4,000.”

Proceeds go to the Tema Conter Trust, a group that promotes awareness and education on PTSD.

READ MORE: ‘Depression made that choice’: Wife of Edmonton paramedic who took his own life 

Treadwell says there’s been increased awareness on social media about first responders, PTSD and mental health in general but that the recent shooting of Edmonton police Const. Daniel Woodall really shook her colleagues. Const. Woodall was rushed to their unit following the shooting and is one reason they requested ‘EPS Strong’ be added to the backs of their shirts.

“We wanted to put it on not only as a shout-out to our EPS colleagues, but also the other first responders that were on scene that day. There was a significant house fire, there were a lot of emergency medical crews there, and they go on and live with the lasting impact of that event, in a bit of a different way than … Daniel Woodall’s colleagues do.”

READ MORE: How to show your support for the Woodall family, Edmonton police  

She says the shirts are a simple way to say: “Thank you for what you do and we’ve got your back.”

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Emma Treadwell, an RN at the UAH/Stollery Emergency unit, in her #Ivegotyourback911 shirt. Kendra Slugoski/Global News
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Emma Treadwell, an RN at the UAH/Stollery Emergency unit, in her #Ivegotyourback911 shirt. Kendra Slugoski/Global News
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Emergency staff at the University of Alberta/Stollery Children's Hospital raise funds and awareness of PTSD. Global News
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Emergency staff at the University of Alberta/Stollery Children's Hospital raise funds and awareness of PTSD. Global News
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Emergency staff at the University of Alberta/Stollery Children's Hospital raise funds and awareness of PTSD. Global News
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Emergency staff at the University of Alberta/Stollery Children's Hospital raise funds and awareness of PTSD. Kendra Slugoski/Global News
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Emergency staff at the University of Alberta/Stollery Children's Hospital raise funds and awareness of PTSD. Global News

So far, the shirts – and their message – have been well received.

“A lot of fist pumps, a lot of positive comments,” Treadwell said.

After being flooded with requests, organizers are now selling the shirts online to allow members of the public to contribute to the fundraiser. Visit www.ivegotyourback911.com for more information.

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But she said it’s not just first responders who are reacting to the shirts. Family members of first responders are also expressing their appreciation. She said patients are also asking about the hashtag and what the t-shirts are about.

“We wanted to be able to show our support to those men and women that we work with everyday,” explained Treadwell.

“We might not know a lot of our medics and EMS by first name – we know their faces, certainly – but they see the shirt and hopefully that lets them know that even if we don’t have the time to say it in those really quick interactions, that we know, we get it and we’re here for them.”

READ MORE: In harm’s way: The PTSD crisis among Canada’s first responders 

It’s a message Treadwell hopes spreads far beyond the emergency unit and the hospital.

“Not only as health care professionals in emergency, but certainly the general public, I think we should be fairly obliged to ensure that our first responder community has that support. Because otherwise, who will be there for us when we need them?”

If you think you have PTSD, talk to your family doctor or a mental health professional. If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, call 911, go to the emergency room, or use the resources available in your province or territory. 

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