Kate MacEachern, an ex-military tank operator who is raising awareness for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), made a pit stop in Lloydminster on May 16 while on her journey from Nipawin, Sask. to Chilliwack, B.C. for her Long Way Home campaign.
She said the trip so far has been “incredible” and that she is 100 per cent on track to meet her estimated time of arrival, which should see her in Chilliwack by July 24.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better province to start,” she said, mentioning that the flatness of the prairies is much easier to traverse than the rolling hills of the East Coast where she did her first two walks. “Not only that, the hospitality out here, honest to god I have never felt more at home being so far away than I do here. We don’t want to leave Saskatchewan. We’re just going to circle the province for 3,000 km,” she added with a laugh.
MacEachern, who is travelling part way with an entourage that includes her son Tyler, said they’ve had lots of memorable moments already and every community they’ve gone through has shown an outpouring of emotion and support. The most memorable moment so far was when she was given an awareness bracelet with a paramedic number on it of a medic that had lost his battle to PTSD.
“In doing this, you carry a lot of weight. You’re carrying a little piece of a lot of people you meet along the way and this was very heavy but it’s incredible,” she said of the bracelet. “It strengthens your resolve, it breaks your heart, but it also reinforces everything.”
There are a few places MacEachern is looking forward to seeing along the way, including the Rocky Mountains, which is a stretch of the trip she is also nervous about considering the upward climbs she will be required to navigate. This is also the point where her walking partners will be separating.
She said she is looking forward to visiting Edmonton as well because that is the town where she was stationed while in the military, and like the Rockies, visiting the Alberta capital comes with some conflicting feelings.
“Edmonton I’m looking forward to because that was my home base for six and a half years and Edmonton is also where I got hurt. So there’s going to be a big mix of emotions, but I’m looking forward to it.”
MacEachern was injured during what she describes as a freak accident where she fell off a horse. The fall caused her spinal chord damage, a fractured skull and traumatic brain injury, which in
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turn caused her to have seizures. Two years later she had a stroke from a blown blood clot caused by the initial injuries.
Now back on her feet and trudging across western Canada, she and her crew are pushing between six and 10 hours a day, with an average of about eight. She said in a run of eight hours they break for about 20 minutes, every seven kilometres or so, to stop and eat, though it’s not unusual for them to put their heads down and pound the pavement for 15 km straight.
This kind of walking regimen may explain why they are on track to meet their goal of arriving in B.C. for July and MacEachern wants to encourage anyone who is interested to visit their Facebook page or website to show their support.
“There’s a million different ways to show support for what we’re doing and it’s not all just about monetary donations,” she said. “Get on the website, get on the Facebook page and let us know you’re out there. We’re coming up to some pretty long stretches, no towns or communities, so it would just be nice to here from people.”