As Halloween is approaching this October 31, 2016 and some children and even adults are preparing for their “trick-or-treat” costumes and indulgence of candy, most probably do not know that there’s a story behind one of the most recognizable and distinctive faces in the CPR manikins that the majority of American Heart Association (AHA) CPR and ECC instructors and maybe some other folks know to be called just “Anne.”
It’s interesting that some coaches teach the CPR courses by first explaining and demonstrating the Basic Life Support (BLS) survey on adult, child, or infant; begin by checking for scene safety; and then turn to assessing for responsiveness by tapping the victim or patient saying “Anne, Anne!!! Are you OK?”
Sometimes inventions and new ideas come to be because of incidental findings or some kind of coincidental circumstances that makes one wonder if things really are just meant to happen. This has generally always been the case in the most revolutionizing and important discoveries of our time.
Speaking of incidental or coincidental discoveries, on September 29, 2016 Palm Desert Resuscitation Education (PDRE) had provided an out-of-site Heartsaver First Aid CPR AED course for the Brady Family who had just adopted a foster child so he could to be part of their family. They all needed an American Heart Association (AHA) certification in First Aid as well as infant, child, and adult CPR/AED training not only for their foster parent licensing requirements in California but also as a general safety measure in case something tragic or life-threatening was ever to occur with their newly adopted son.
As per the website adoptuskids.org, there are more than 55,000 children in foster care in California and 2,000 of those children need an adoptive family daily, which shows you how the Brady Family truly want to help in the cause of foster children in need of personal, safe, and caring homes they belong in and deserve. During the conduction of the course, Mr. Christopher and Mrs. Alison Brady interjected an interesting story about the Laerdal Mini Anne CPR manikin that we were using to practice some First Aid and CPR psychomotor techniques and skills. Some of our demonstration and practices included performing proper ventilation with a barrier device (mostly with a face-shield) during CPR or rescue breathing when the victim may have a thready, low pulse and not breathing normally.
Unexpected as it may have sounded at the time but Mr. Christopher Brady – who is a two-time Emmy winning music composer and producer for his work on the infamous FOX Sports Network (FSN) National Basketball Association (NBA) theme song in addition to his award winning work on the public service announcement “Do You Know CPR?” in the Beverly Hills Network 10 – mentioned that Radiolab (well known as a radio show and podcast that weaves stories and science into sound and music-rich documentaries) had a fascinating podcast on November 28, 2011 called the “Death Mask” that told of a story during the end of the 19th century about a cryptic young lady with a mesmerizing smile who lived in Paris, France; she would truly become someone celebrated by all, which was similar to today’s adornment of movie stars and celebrities in Hollywood. However, what is very haunting is that this beautiful and young French woman would eventually commit suicide by drowning near a river, where it was told that she was found unwitnessed by a bystander and already dead on the scene as she floated on the surface of the water near the Quai du Louvre. Unfortunately, the body was not identified even though it was sent to the Paris Morgue and was, in fact, put on display in the hopes that the body would be recognized so that the family members and/or friends of the deceased can presumably mourn and grieve appropriately via a proper burial and funeral. Looking further into the eerie story, the unidentified body was laid out without evidence of violence or foul play and was presumed to be an apparent suicide by drowning. Afterwards, it was said that a worker of the Paris Morgue somehow oddly crafted a plaster cast of her face to produce what would later to be called a “death mask” before disposing the cadaver. Ironically, the plaster cast of the deceased French woman’s face (practically an unknown when she was alive) became an instant hit and phenomenon as a timeless art creation in the bourgeoisie and bohemian groups. Everyone in Germany, France, and Europe had to have it in their households because it was a sign of the privileged and entitlement.
Quai du Louvre, 75001 Paris, France
Back in the 1800’s, “death masks” were a very popular method of preserving the faces of famous people, just like how the prehistoric Egyptian, Roman and Greek emperors and other prominent figures were forever immortalized through ancient mummies and stone sculptures as one would observe in the national museums such as the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, CA and American Museum of Natural History in New York City, New York. Surprisingly, this is how the unknown and young French woman’s beautiful face (that strangely revolved around drowning to death by suicide, as per the BBC producer Jeremy Grange) became utterly acclaimed and famous across Europe and elsewhere around the world afterwards. This same “face,” which came to be known as simply “L’inconnue de la Sein” or the unknown woman of Seine and the Mona Lisa of the Seine, was extensively used as a death mask and a sign of the fortunate and wealthy although, at the time when she was alive, she was only a commoner and had no privileged and influential status whatsoever. These death masks were mementos of the dead and often times utilized for the creation of portraits, which coincidentally and ironically created their way into the very homes and living quarters of a myriad of people across Europe through picturesque wall art paintings of the L’inconnue de la Sein.
You are probably asking how does this chilling story of the L’inconnue de la Sein relate to any PDRE CPR and ECC courses?
L’inconnue (Adam Cole/WNYC)
Well, in 1958 two physicians – one from Vienna, Austria, Dr. Peter Safar, and another from the United States, Dr. James Elam – who were, at that time, the current United States Chief of Anesthesiology and one of the first individuals to research, recognize and endorse the sound techniques of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and life-saving resurrection by giving air by mouth-to-mouth ventilations or rescue breathing wanted a way to promote their “new and effective basic CPR and rescue breathing skills” by hiring a Norwegian toy designer and businessman, Mr. Asmund Laerdal. The Norwegian toymaker, who had began his primary business undertaking in 1940, successfully founded and developed a unique and closely-guarded material of soft plastics for the creation of dolls nine years later after a trip to the United States in 1949. Not only did Mr. Laerdal publish children’s books and create wooden toys for children but, after mastering the use of his new plastic material about one year later, he also ventured into creating and manufacturing rubber first aid materials and supplies among other products he cleverly produced. Apparently, Dr. Safar noticed how Mr. Laerdal developed lifelike prosthetic wound simulations for the use in military training, especially during those times for the medics in the care of wounded infantry while in the front line of battles and wars. Thus, a lasting and significant partnership began with Dr. Safar and Mr. Laerdal as they met in New York in 1960 through another physician, Dr. Per Stromback, the Chief Physician of the Swedish Red Cross, and Dr. Archer Gordon, another innovator of resuscitation, to eventually create a one-of-a-kind mannequin – “the doll sensation of the century” – that everyone needs in order to practice their CPR techniques on and that future CPR instructors can depend on to evaluate the psychomotor skills and assessments of their students. Even though CPR was not as widely-accepted in those days compared to today’s evidence-based guidelines and recommendations of CPR in cardiac arrest, the lack of more research, public education, and technology to encourage the life-saving skills of CPR was not all impossible to conquer through the eyes of these trailblazers, Dr. Safar, Dr. Elam, and Mr. Laerdal.
Thus, the search for the perfect “face” in the impending and functional CPR manikins for practicing and learning simulated quality resuscitation came to be, but what would the face look like and can they find a way to make it marketable to everyone in those times during the late 1950’s and beyond? How can this type of CPR manikin contribute to the development and understanding of modern rescue breathing and CPR? How do these trailblazers bring the need of the CPR manikin to the attention of the medical community and the general public?
Obviously, the culture in the 1950’s and 1960’s was a lot different from today with the “baby and suburban boomers,” expansion of the middle-class with the post-World War II flourishing economy, Civil Rights Movement, Cold War, popular culture and mass media, and countless more influential and significant movements and trends. The sign of the times during 1958, however, required that the CPR manikins resemble females, as most males during those days did not want to practice mouth-to-mouth airway breathing on male mannequins. As the story goes (as stated in numerous credible articles such as the “The Story of Resusci Anne and the Beginnings of Modern CPR” in addition to other plausible resources like the previously quoted Radiolab podcast and the Health Trivia and Myth Busting blog in itriagehealth.com), Mr. Laerdal one day goes to visit his father-in-law’s home and what do you know? The L’inconnue de la Sein artwork was actually displayed on the living room wall of his parent’s bourgeoisie house that again eerily portrayed the death mask of a strikingly elegant woman with immaculate features and a mysterious smile who seemed to perfectly fit what Dr. Safari, Dr. Elam and Mr. Laerdal were looking for in a CPR manikin for the ages. A light bulb turns on…which led to the creation of the most widely used “face” in the CPR manikins and the chief reason why a majority of the CPR instructors, coaches, guides and countless students call the Laerdal CPR manikin, Resusci “Anne,” after the name of Mr. Laerdal’s already-popular children’s doll he created when he began his business in 1940.
As spooky and weird as it may have seem, but who would have thought that the collaboration between an Austrian, American and Swedish physicians, a toymaker from Norway, and an unfortunate suicide by a nameless and unidentified French woman would turn into the most widely kissed CPR manikin in the world? Therefore, it is interesting to note that if you have been one of many students of PDRE and have taken our excellent courses, you have probably already touched her “face” yourself, unknowingly not realizing that this same face that you had performed the “head-tilt-chin-lift” maneuver to give airway to during rescue breathing and/or CPR was a real person who lived mostly an unrecognized and anonymous life actually had her “death mask” forever engraved in the Resusci “Anne” CPR manikins. It is now very well-known for teaching millions and millions of people how to properly perform CPR and other life-saving skills, helping save countless lives from lethal cardiac arrest and respiratory arrest/failure cases around the world…
Happy Halloween to Everyone! Be safe while trick-or-treating!
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