By Teegan Hunter, Security Officer
I’ve been a Security Officer for the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) since September 2017. Our team handles over 1,000 calls a month at the four Saskatoon facilities where we’re stationed—including more than 700 calls a month at Royal University Hospital (RUH).
Being a Security Officer in the health care sector has many rewards and challenges. Each day brings new and different situations, and you have to adjust the services you provide while always remaining positive. April 6th, 2018 changed the lives of many forever.
The Humboldt Broncos tragedy impacted families, communities, the health sector, and the entire hockey world. Here is my story about my experiences as a Security Officer during this very difficult time.
I was first notified about the bus crash on the evening of April 6th. My heart instantly fell ill as I learned of the seriousness of the accident and the extent of the casualties. I didn’t know what to think—all I wanted to do was help. The next morning I arrived at RUH for my scheduled 7:00 shift. The emotion lay heavy in that large building. Green and yellow displays of support had already
begun forming in the hallways. While sitting at our post in the Emergency Department I saw a young man with blonde hair—one of the players--visibly injured but up and walking. He walked over to use the phone, and seeing me looking at him he did something which would change my entire day: he smiled.
I thought to myself – how unbelievable, how are you smiling on a day like today?
This small gesture was one of the first of many signs I saw of what a remarkable hockey organization the Humboldt Broncos are.
Around this time, local support began pouring in. The Saskatoon Police Chief, Troy Cooper, and some of his fellow officers arrived in full uniform to pay their respects. I thanked them, shook their hands and took them back to our ICU waiting area. The reality of what had happened was really starting to become clear. Very quickly, the media presence in and around the facility grew. This was challenging, because the SHA takes patient confidentiality and safety very seriously. I became stationed in the hallway outside our Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and Coronary Care Unit (CCU). My original duty was to ensure that families, friends, players, and organization staff had privacy during this very raw and difficult time. However, my duties very quickly widened as I began to spend time with these families and loved ones.
In the first week after the accident I handed out thousands of visitor tags—there were people everywhere. Donations and messages began pouring in from all over the country and beyond: food, gifts, gift cards, and notes from anonymous people offering to help however they could. The world was starting to come together. We were visited by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his team, players and representatives from numerous NHL teams, Don Cherry and Ron McLean, Hayley Wickenheiser, and singer Paul Brandt. Their support truly brightened everyone’s day.
My days quickly changed from being in a rotation with my team to immersing myself for 12-14 hours a day with the affected families. As I met more friends, hugged more billets, and held more parents I just naturally became very protective of everyone down there. I feel so honoured and blessed to have been able to offer my services to these amazing, strong individuals. These
people, who were living through the worst moments of their lives, who may have lost a loved one, often asked me how I was doing, if I was doing okay. This shows just the type of people the Broncos community are. I received a Humboldt Broncos bunny hug and a hockey stick from one of the player’s parents. I will never forget that nor will I ever part with them. That stick is on the bench with my hockey team at every game and hangs in our dressing room. As I sit and write this, almost five months after the tragedy, it still brings tears to my eyes. I cannot begin to explain how truly thankful I am to have met every single one of these people. Doing my job in the midst of this tragedy was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but these have been the most rewarding moments of my life. Growing up as an athlete, playing competitive hockey for 18 years as well as American college softball, this tragedy rocked me to my core. Your team is your everything. Your fans, your families, your billets – it’s one big, tight knit family and you build those core team relationships on your travel bus. In 2012, I experienced an accident in Nebraska when our sister school bus was broad sided. This experience was something I leaned on mentally to help me adjust accordingly and attempt to give these Broncos’ families, billets, players and friends a little extra effort in finding out what they needed. There are so many people I want to salute and thank for the vital roles they played during this crisis:
- the families, friends, billets and players for allowing me to go on this journey with them and trust me to stand tall for them. You have changed my life and I will forever hold the Broncos in my heart.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and everyone who came to show their support. I saw firsthand how much your support and positivity meant to everyone. A glimmer of hope shone every time a visitor arrived.
- the elementary schools who wrote prayers or made wreaths for each player. As the one delivering them, I saw the bright and thankful smiles these gifts brought.
- the people who provided spiritual support. You made yourselves and your prayers available to everyone without forcing yourselves on anyone.
- the makers of the Broncos blankets. I can tell you the staff all enjoy them and it’s very comforting to be wrapped up in one.
- the medical staff, who provided consistently excellent care when faced with stress and emotion like they had never seen before
- EMS, STARS and first responders at the scene: you saved many lives due to great training, teamwork, and compassion.
And last, to my fellow security officers, for offering your hand out in support to me during this time. Knowing I had a team I could talk to and lean on if needed meant a lot to me. People ask, how do you add to the health care team? I have always known our value, but now I know in my heart, that as security, in times of crisis and tragedy we are willing and able to meet the challenge. We are all Bronco strong!