I believed everything I was told in my first CPR class, about 20 years ago — including the poignant story of the practice dummy, Annie. She was designed by a doctor and modelled on his daughter, who drowned and who might have been saved had onlookers only known how.

Today I learned that story is untrue:

While there are many CPR dummies or mannequins on the market, the face of the one most widely used was modeled on that of an anonymous young woman whose body was fished from the Seine around the turn of the 20th century. It was believed she had taken her own life, but since she was never identified, no details of her life were known and the events leading to her demise remain a mystery….

In the mid-1950s, Dr. Peter Safar, a pioneer in emergency medicine, developed a method of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation combined with chest compression…. Safar believed his methods could be employed by those outside the medical field to save lives, provided these laypeople were given adequate training in his techniques. To more effectively teach this procedure to them, he envisioned having a life-sized doll that novices to cardiopulmonary resuscitation could practice on, and so he approached toymaker Asmund Laerdal with the idea of developing a realistic mannequin for CPR training…. The face Laerdal used for his training dummy was that of “L’Inconnue de la Seine,” the by-then well-traveled death mask of an unknown Parisian girl.

Hmm. Does that make Resusci-Annie more creepy, or less creepy?

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