Monday, June 2, 2008

Rescue Annie & Me

Ten days ago I was in Omaha, Nebraska at Mayhem in the Midlands learning how to read murder crime scenes. Six days ago I was in Wagoner, Oklahoma at the Oklahoma Department of Mines learning how to save lives. The irony doesn't escape this mystery writer.

I just completed my required annual First Aid refresher class for my "day" job. For each of the past 23 years I've variously enjoyed, endured, or multi-tasked my way through six hours of First Aid training. So far I haven't had to use anything I've learned - other than advising friends, family, and co-workers about everyday bumps and sprains. Here's where I knock on wood or spin in my chair three times or find some salt to toss over my shoulder.

For anyone who has taken CPR training, Annie is a well-known figure. A training mannequin used for teaching Cardiopulmonary resuscitation for more than 40 years, Annie has been around the block more than once.

Wikipedia lists two urban myths associated with the mannequin's distinctive face: (1) Annie's face is modeled on the death mask of a young woman who drowned in the Seine River in the 1880s; (2) She's the deceased daughter of the doctor who invented her. Apparently neither really happened but adds a bit of mystery to the much-saved victim.

Annie and her offspring, Baby Annie, offer would-be rescuers an opportunity to practice rescue breathing, chest compressions, and abdominal thrusts (Heimlich maneuver) without worry of injuring a live person. In addition, now Annie is used to demonstrate the use of the increasingly popular, Automated External Defibrillator (AEDs).

As I found out last week, AEDs are easy enough for a typical grade-schooler to use and are fast becoming a staple of First Aid supplies in airports, schools, and public buildings.

I'd recommend that everyone take a First Aid class. It's not the same information you received when you earned your Scout badge! It's not the same as you received even a couple of years ago. For instance, rescue breathing is no longer recommended (unless you have protective mouth guards), just chest compressions. And forget checking for a pulse. Most people confused the pulse in their own thumb or fingers for the victim's. Instead check for signs of breathing (look, listen, feel). Look for chest movement, listen for the sounds of air being taken in or let out, and feel with your hand or face next to the victim's face for air movement. If the victim isn't breathing, start chest compressions. 100 a minute. Do two sets of 30 compressions then check for signs of breathing again. Start CPR first, then call 911.

Another tip: what do you do if you're alone and having a heart attack? Besides calling 911, you should start deep breathing and coughing – hard, deep coughs. Every two seconds. One deep breath. One deep cough. Keep going until you feel better or help arrives. Apparently the action of coughing squeezes the heart and keeps blood circulating. The squeezing pressure may also help the heart regain its rhythm.

Take time out this year to meet with Annie! Be prepared to save lives.

Evelyn David

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