May 12, 2016
Story by Erika Sherk; Photo by Fallon and Stefan Spohr
The morning of Tuesday, May 3, Fallon Spohr knew it would be an unusual day: the pregnant 27-year-old was in labour. She didn’t, however, bargain on a wild ride fleeing a fire and a medevac flight to Edmonton. Soon, however, her Fort McMurray neighbourhood was under a mandatory evacuation order due to the wildfire burning near the city. Fallon and her husband Stefan, 27, quickly packed and got in their truck.
“I couldn’t think too much about how panicky the city was becoming,” Fallon says. “We were doing our best to stay calm and focus on getting out safely.”
They were soon in gridlock. It was stressful, says Stefan, sitting there as the flames moved closer. “I kept thinking ‘Fallon can’t run,’” he says. “’If we need to abandon everything and run for it, I can do it. But Fallon can’t run.’”
They waited for several hours, watching the fire grow. Soon the fire was 100 m behind them. They could see 50 ft. flames through their window. “That’s when I broke loose,” Stefan says. He drove on sidewalks, grass – even the wrong way down the street at one point.
“I was doing everything I could to get us out of there. I feel like I get a free pass on that one. We were fleeing a fire and I had a wife in labour,” he says.
They finally made it to the highway, heading north, and drove up to some RCMP officers, who escorted them to a nearby work camp with an ambulance. Fallon was whisked to Suncor’s Firebag site north of Fort McMurray and 45 minutes later, flown to Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton. Stefan followed on another flight.
Kennedy Melina, an even 9 lbs, was born the next evening. Fallon says the staff at the Misericordia were amazing. “They were really thoughtful. They knew that we were coming from a stressful situation so they took great care of me.”
Their family of three has much to be thankful for, she adds. People have given them baby clothes and supplies. They’re staying with family in Edmonton. Their house in Fort McMurray is still intact. They have a healthy, happy baby.
Staff and other patients at both the Misericordia and Grey Nuns Community Hospital have responded with generosity to the moms and babies of Fort McMurray. New parents are given baby clothes, diaper bags, toiletries, car seats, gift cards and more.
“Our training, firstly, is to provide care. And when a baby and a mom are involved, it just brings out the best in people,” says Lynn Laskoski, Social Worker – Women’s Health, at Grey Nuns. “It could be any one of us in this situation.”
“It was heartbreaking, everyone had very mixed emotions,” says Gwen Bouwsema, Unit Manager, Labour and Delivery, of the evacuees that came to the Misericordia to have their babies. “They were glad they got here safely but worried about friends and relatives and in shock about all they had lost, too.”
Having a baby is always a big moment, even under normal circumstances, says Bouwsema. “Their emotions were frayed. There was happiness but there was sadness and those two were never too far apart.”
“It should be a beautiful time but it was a stressful time for them,” she says. “It really made all of us try very, very hard to make a difference to make it a good time, a good memory.”
Shawna McNernie, an LPN at Grey Nuns, looked after a woman who had been evacuated just hours after delivering twins by caesarian section. “I think I put aside the medical professional that I am for a moment and did what any other concerned and caring person would do,” she says. “Once she was comfortable and cared for, I was someone to support her during her stay with us.”
Bouwsema says it was a pleasure to meet Fallon and Stefan Spohr and their new baby. “They were a family that showed amazing strength,” she says. “They were delightful, positive people, just really focused on having a healthy delivery.”
Fallon and Stefan are now settling into life with their newborn daughter. “It’s been such an emotional, terrible time for so many people but Kennedy is such a little blessing that came out in the midst of it all,” Fallon says.
“I’ll never forget that, no matter how terrible things are, there’s always something beautiful that can come out of it.”