My moment of greatest dread as a guide came this summer on the last bend of the Wind River. Our camp was aglow in evening light, dinner was ready and I was talking via satellite phone with a physician friend who was confirming what I didn’t want to hear: I needed an emergency medical evacuation, for myself.
I started guiding out of university more than 10 years ago and was now emerging from two years of maternity leave, returning to Black Feather Adventures for the first time since I guided on the Mountain River. Back then I was four months pregnant with my first baby, dreaming of a future when my kids would keep me in the paddling game. As I headed to Whitehorse, ready to step back into my former life, I found out I was pregnant once again!
Being back in the canoe was heavenly, of course. Spending days immersed in nature was invigorating. Even hauling canoes and schlepping barrels was perversely satisfying. But at this point in my life, I returned for a chance at forging lasting relationships with extraordinary people.
Armed with trip reports and maps, this was my inaugural trip down the Wind River, with five clients from across Canada and the U.S. Halfway along, I started experiencing some mild-yet-stable symptoms indicating that this pregnancy might not be progressing as smoothly as the previous ones. A few days later, my nightmare started: a miscarriage at 13 weeks on a remote river in the capacity of lone guide.
Being the only guide will make even the most competent and confident wonder, “what if something happens to me?” At the first hint of trouble I had tried to line up contingency plans, but now as dusk was falling and the increasing urgency of the medical situation was increasing, I ended up having to call my personal friend, Kalin Pallett, on his cellphone for help.
He didn’t mention how busy work had been, or even tell me he was standing in the pouring rain after the whitewater rodeo he had been emceeing. He said: “OK Anne. I’ve got your back. We’ll get you outta there.” It meant the world to me to hear those words as I sat there staying as still as possible so it would hurt less, wondering how much I would have to endure and trying not to think up complications that could turn this into a life-threatening situation.
Kalin rushed to the Up North Adventures store, where he is the general manager, and called the owner, Mark Stenzig, who didn’t hesitate to make available the resources to not only arrange an evacuation, but also a replacement guide pulled from their staff. They offered every kind of encouragement, support and succor that night and in the ensuing days. Fortuitously, I made it to the Whitehorse hospital just before the worst of the miscarriage took place.
I remain eternally grateful to Kalin in particular, but also to Mark and Up North Adventures, for organizing the evacuation in the fastest possible manner, saving me from a great deal of agonizing pain and likely saving my life. I also wish to express my gratitude to my friend the physician for her invaluable advice and to Yukon EMS.