Feature: Modern-day Annie vital to resuscitation training team

The training dummy E10001N
The training dummy E10001N

Football hardman Vinny Jones has been doing his bit to encourage people

to learn the basics of resuscitation with his gangster-inspired TV ad. But,

as our reporter found out, there is already a dedicated team of people at the DGH working hard to get the message out.

AS A YOUNG whipper-snapper I was desperate to join the Cubs. Sadly, it turned out I wasn’t alone and by the time my parents got round to ringing up, it was oversubscribed. That, or it cost too much and being full-up was a more convenient excuse.

The resuscitation team - Resuscitation Officers Keith Talbott, Jo Merritt and Steve Rochester

The resuscitation team - Resuscitation Officers Keith Talbott, Jo Merritt and Steve Rochester

So, as a bright eyed and bushy tailed lad of about eight I found myself inducted into the brotherhood of the First Aid Badger.

I was tricked. There was no fire starting, no camping, no pocket knife – just learning how to put on a bandage and make a sling. Probably in case your arm got broken by a swan, or something equally unlikely.

Anyhow, why, you may ask, am I bleating on about this now, 22 years later.

Have the wounds of deceit not healed? No, but that is not the reason all this sprang like an emotional leak from the darkest depths of my memory.

The reason was that I had been invited to visit the resus team at the DGH – a team I assumed would have its own Resus Annie.

Anyone who has ever been on a first aid course will know who I was expecting to see.

A plastic woman with no arms or legs but an endless supply of wet wipes.

The times though, they are a changing, and Resus Annie is no more.

She has been superseded by all-singing, all-dancing state-of-the-art training mannequin.

And, as Steve Rochester explained, far from being mourned, Resus Annie’s passing has actually been welcomed by staff.

“The new model does not have a name,” he said, “but it is really useful, far more life-like and makes training staff so much easier.

“A lot of the work we do here is teaching other staff at the trust the skills they need to be confident when attempting resuscitation.

“The new dummy is great because it allows people to practice without the pressure of a real-life situation and as often as they like. The more someone does it, the better they get.”

Costing £40,000 the dummy can swap sexes and is able to replicate a host of additional medical conditions which could complicate any resus attempt.

As Mr Rochester expanded, “He can sweat bleed, foam at the mouth, cry, even wee on you.

“It is important people experience training in circumstances as similar to what they may face when doing it on a real person.”

He admits that certain sessions can “get a bit messy,” but that while they are happy to mock up temperatures and tears with water, they tend to hold off filling the model with their home-made diarrhoea (fake blood and coffee granules) or too much blood because, well, they have to clear up after themselves.

That said, there are fake wounds you can strap onto the dummy and, sat on a desk like it is the most normal thing in the world, is a fake placenta.

Mr Rochester and his team, it seems, are a lot like frustrated special effects experts.

The dummy, which also winks, blinks, breathes and has pupils which dilate when light is shined in its eyes, is hooked up to all the machinery you would expect on the ward.

And, when a student does something to it during training, its vital output signs adjust accordingly.

There are even fake x-rays of literally every body part imaginable which call be called up on a big screen at a few seconds notice.

But, as Mr Rochester explained, the most important thing in treating someone who has stopped breathing, is getting them a defibrillator. It isn’t a surprise to find that the dummy comes complete with one them.

And, proving his point, my guide stops the model’s heart. I turn on the defib, flick a switch and within 20 seconds it is doing its thing and, thankfully, bringing my plastic patient back to life. Not bad for a device which can cost as little as £1,000.

“If you are going to have a cardiac arrest,” said Mr Rochester, “your best chance of surviving is to collapse near someone who calls for help, knows CPR and gets a defib to you quickly.

“They are the keys things. It really is a case of being in the right place at the right time, so to speak.”

That element of chance is one which Mr Rochester and his team spend their entire working day trying to remove.

All staff across the entire trust get basic resus training and, each time the official guidelines on best practice are issued, they are called in to learn the new methods.

And, regardless of updated approaches, staff are expected to attend refreshers regularly.

The five-strong resus team also offers support to mums-to-be as part of their prenatal packages and gives training to the families of people who are likely to need resuscitating at some stage in their lives, people like premature babies.

It is as much about education and equipping people to deal with resus themselves as carrying out actual rescues, although of course that happens – sometimes on a daily basis.

But, much like riding a bike, once someone picks up the basics, it should stay with them for life.

“Modern day resus was introduced in the 1960s,” said Mr Rochester. “and the basic principles are still the same so even if someone learnt them 20 years ago it will still work.”

Maybe all those Tuesday evenings spent toiling away with Resus Annie as an at-the-time very bored eight-year-old were not such a waste of time after all.

And lets be honest, when exactly will I need to start a fire from scratch in 2012?