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Life-threatening illnesses and injuries can happen at the worst times and in the most challenging places. Sometimes STARS crews provide medical care in a ditch at the side of the road or breathe life into a heart attack patient inside a helicopter. Other times they respond with a stretcher deep in remote regions. Thousands of people every year rely on STARS for advanced critical care and direct transport to hospital. Join us for Mission Ready, a STARS podcast as we hear from the people and patients involved in these harrowing emergencies.

Mission Ready is available on the most common podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music/Audible, and Google Podcasts. Alternatively, you can listen directly below.

Season 1: Cougar attack in the wild


Episode 1: Mauling on a mountaintop

Marcia Birkigt is a government biologist who has been mauled by a massive cougar while she and her colleagues work in the remote wilderness. Electrical storms in the area are hampering calls to 911 and the roads to rescue her on a mountain top are deemed impassible. How will Marcia get the urgent care she needs to survive?

Episode 2: Mission accepted

Marcia is in urgent need of frontline health-care workers with advanced knowledge, expertise, and skills, but the only way to get them there on this day is by helicopter. We chat with one of the STARS pilots on this mission and find out what the pilots and emergency communications specialists discussed as they considered accepting the mission.


Episode 3: Skids up to Nose Mountain

Inside the STARS helicopter enroute to the mountaintop, the air medical crew prepares for what they are about to experience on this complex mission: treating a coworker’s loved one who has been mauled by a cougar and sustained a massive head wound. At the chaotic scene, Marcia’s coworkers apply first aid and scramble to prepare a landing zone for the helicopter which is about 20 minutes out.


Episode 4: Bedside manner

Forty inches of stitches to Marcia’s head. Another 140 staples. Six hours and 30 minutes to sew up the wounds. A jar of cougar fur. An off-duty STARS nurse was at the landing pad with Marcia’s boyfriend when the helicopter landed and Marcia was rushed inside. Marla Tabler was there for it all and walks us through the care she received in hospital.


Episode 5: Who helps the helpers?

Who provides support to the frontline staff and to the people who witnessed this attack and other horrific tragedies? With PTSD top of mind for front-line workers and mental health and wellness such an important factor in our industry and beyond, how do we make sure our crews stay healthy physically and mentally? We talk to the helpers and find out how they cope.


Episode 6: After the mission

Marcia’s recovery was a journey of ups, downs, and seemingly never-ending run-ins with cougars. It was as though she was living in a nightmare long after the attack. Listen as she shares the unconventional ways she chose to cope, including what happened when she returned to the scene of the attack and the special name she gave to her first child.


Bonus episode: STARS origins

When our first helicopter and medical crew took flight in 1985, we didn’t just offer hope to the hopeless. We radically changed the way critical care was delivered. Join us as we chat with Dr. Greg Powell, one of STARS’ founders, as he takes us through the birth and growth of Western Canada’s leading prehospital care service. Find out where our very first patient is now and how we made all the difference.



If you loved the dramatic music in our Mission Ready podcast you will love the story behind the music. Meet 15-year-old Kaiya Gamble who drew on her talents and deep connection to STARS to create the perfect theme music for Season 1: Mauling on a Mountaintop. “STARS gave so much to my family I want to give something back,” says Kaiya.

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