PPFF #140: Resusci Annie

Good morning

I had a chat with Matt (not his real name) on Sunday about something so interesting that I put it in the back pocket for today’s little rant. Unfortunately I seem to have completely forgotten both the topic and the content of that discussion.

I do remember though a few months back when I was in a first aid class, looking at the resuscitation mannequin better known as Resusci Annie, wondering why it was necessary that it had hair moulded onto the barely human-looking torso. Come to think of it now, why does it have a name? Anne? Who is she? And did she really have to be blonde?

Having looked up however, I’m almost annoyed with the CPR instructor for not having told me the popular (albeit most likely post-rationalised and fictional) story behind this creepy ‘moulage’.

The story begins in beloved Stavanger, currently the Norwegian (this explains the blonde thing) capital of oil and gas (probably for not much longer, with Brent crude at 47 USD) going back to 1940s when Laerdal (or Lærdal) was established as a toy company. They started out by making die-cast toys, then moved on to rubber toys and in the 50s when the modern CPR was ‘invented’ by Peter Safar, they collaborated with the ‘inventor’ to create the rubber mannequin we know as Resusci Annie. To this day Laedal is one of the major suppliers of these mannequins. But this isn’t the fun fact that answered the questions I raised earlier.

In an effort to create something that resembled a realistic unconscious person which people wouldn’t mind putting their mouth to, Laerdal was on the look-out for some inspiration, and he found that inspiration in the face of the legendary ‘Inconnue de la Seine’, the death mask of an unknown girl supposedly drowned in the river Seine, Paris.

Probably untrue but a better story than ‘some random model posed for the purpose of creating a medical rubber mannequin’, apparently the body of a young girl no older than 16 years of age was found in the river Seine in the mid-1800s and someone at the morgue found her (dead) face rather striking – so naturally he cast her face in plaster and the (dead) face became a hit/popular fixture in many European homes.

Now, if you’re planning to take that CPR class any time soon, you have a choice to make; pretend all this is true and you kiss a dead girl who  you know just died, or you kiss a minor alive and posing for the cast, OR you try to save someone who nearly drowned and stopped breathing but is still alive as intended. I guess the choice is yours.

Have a decent Friday.


P.S.: read better versions of this story, here or here.