Sunday, January 31, 2016

Beaver Dams, Wasps, Anaphylaxis and Other Things in Northern Ontario



I’ve travelled to more than 30 countries, eaten exotic foods, interacted with some crazy animals, and taken some very iffy modes of transportation but other than a bit of a toe infection in China and a nasty food bug in Cuba, I have never actually had the need to visit a health facility or be transported to one via ambulance – until I decided to visit Northern Ontario!

For five or so years I have been writing about my travels throughout the world. It is true that I tend to leave my native Canada to seek out new adventures but I have been neglectful in not posting about the amazing country in which I live!

Throughout the winter of 2015 I had been consumed with completing renovations in my home of sixteen years, which was vintage 1960 in d├ęcor and design.  Bringing the old homestead into the twenty first century had taken up much of my time and money so when I looked at my options for getting away I had to scale back quite a bit. The best thing that any budget traveller can do is sponge off of family and friends!  Luckily for me, our very close friends and my neighbours from childhood had given up Southern Ontario for the great north many years before and now lived next to Algonquin Park right by Golden  Lake. Other members of my family had visited over the years but I had never actually made time to take advantage of Marnell’s hospitality. This summer I decided to join my sister-in-law, Cindy, my niece and my niece’s boyfriend in a week-long stay. My sister and her daughter were already there.

Now, the weekend trek up to cottage country is a unique Canadian experience and has to be approached strategically to avoid getting stuck in the mass exodus of the population of Southern Ontario all escaping the concrete jungles every Friday afternoon.  We opted to leave on a Sunday and so our drive up the 400 wasn’t that bad. We took the route through Alqonquin Park in the hopes of seeing some wildlife but basically we just saw lots of trees. After five hours and three pit stops we finally made it to Deacon and Marnell’s little corner of paradise.  Marnell has a homey little house next to Golden Lake and since her hospitality is legendary she has parked several trailers on her property to accommodate her many summer freeloaders guests.  The first order of business was to crack open the forty pounder of rye, the two-four of beer and settle ourselves in some lawn chairs next to the bomb fire for some reminiscing and catch up.  Sitting by the fire and taking the occasional dip in the lake to cool down (and to pee since taking off my bathing suit to use the inside facilities seemed like too much of a hassle) pretty much became the routine for the next seven days.  I did want to see some of the wonderful sites in the area so I forced myself away from Marnell’s little resort every day to explore the surrounding countryside and towns.



One early morning, okay not so early, but drinking by the fireside every night lends itself to a good lie in the next day…Michael, the quiet and very nice boyfriend of my niece, and I decided to take a little hike up a trail to get some photos of some beaver dams and take in the views from the top of the mountain on which they were situated. 

Walking up to the Beaver Dam
After climbing over many rocks, fallen trees, beaver dams, and whatnot we made it to a stunning area of beaver paradise without much mishap. Unfortunately, on our way back down we stopped for a minute to get our bearings, so as not to become a sad statistic of northern adventurers lost in the bush, when I felt a sharp sting on my backside – literally, my backside. I quickly brushed away whatever nasty wildlife had attacked me and seemed to see some sort of large waspy thingy angrily flying away. Thinking I was lucky not to have encountered some kind of reptilian monster sucking my blood I told Michael all was good and we continued on our arduous trek.  We climbed over rocks and fallen trees as we discussed the various manifestations of allergic reactions. I continued to reassure Michael that I, being the specimen of health, had no allergies whatsoever, all while I furiously scratched my scalp and backside. After about thirty minutes we did make it back to Marnell’s and I settled myself into a lawn chair to relax since I was feeling a bit sweaty and my heart was definitely running on high gear. As I sat there I started to feel a bit congested and found that breathing was becoming a bit of a chore…

Being a twenty-first century kind of person I picked up my iPhone to Google my symptoms and noticed rather alarming red welts arising rather unnaturally on my arms. A quick inspection of the chest area also revealed theses large splotches of red angry looking markings.  I decided a little Benadryl wouldn’t go amiss at this point so I headed over to Marnell, who was busily washing her car and asked if she had any anti-red welty type of medicine. Well, I guess the swelling had moved onwards to my facial area and I was beginning to look like a rather ripe red tomato ready to burst open because before I knew what was happening, Marnell, ever the cool calm and collected individual, was packing me into the car and calling for my sister-in-law, Cindy to jump in. Next thing I knew we were headed out to find some type of real medical intervention.

Now, I’m not saying that living in the north of Ontario or any remote region means you are more likely to die from life threatening emergencies but lets just say I’m glad Marnell has a bit of a lead foot. As we headed to Deacon, the nearest town, I started to become nauseous and experience some rather alarming chest pains so Marnell headed to a little medical clinic. Luckily a wonderful nurse practitioner was on duty and within minutes she was making me take a couple of tablets and had me hooked up to various wires and medical type whatnots to measure all my important measurements – heart, breathing, brain wave – well maybe not brain waves. Meanwhile, the receptionist had called for an ambulance…

Apparently the ambulance was nearby having a little coffee break and so within minutes I had a rather attractive looking ambulance attendant strapping me to a gurney while his partner was pulling out the largest bloody needle I had ever seen and filling it with some mysterious mediciny stuff. I must have looked a bit alarmed because Mr. Attractive tried to reassure me by saying they weren’t actually going to stick me with it…yeah, right, I thought, she’s just getting it ready for practice! Despite his reassurance I did get stuck with the needle that looked more like an alien torture device, which was apparently filled with Epinephrine. Boy, that stuff works like a charm!  Almost instantly my heart seemed to slow down and I no longer felt like I was going to be having to explain some of my past actions to St. Peter…

As they were loading me into the ambulance and Cindy was hopping in the front, I was starting to feel like a lot of fuss was being made over nothing but apparently the epinephrine shot was just the beginning of the fun after suffering anaphylaxis. After a thirty-minute ride to the nearest emergency room I spent the rest of the day in a hospital bed being monitored for relapse, which can happen, and given a variety of other drugs to counteract the effects of the nasty little creature that had attacked me.  My cocktail of drugs for the next week included Ranitidine, Prednisone, and Bendryl!

Cindy was a real trooper throughout this little drama, staying with me the whole day and Marnell was a godsend, first getting me to the clinic and later picking us up and taking me to the drugstore to get my new handy little Epi-pens!

When we finally made it back to the old homestead that night I put on a very serious face and told Michael that the doctor said if he had only sucked out the venom immediately then I never would have ended up in such a bad way! He responded that maybe he would have, if it was a snake bite.


Beaver Dam Destruction

Lake created by beaver dam

Trees, what more can I say.