From NorthJersey.com, By Gene Myers:
Alone and desperate, she steps to the edge and looks down. On her own and in a strange land, she feels there’s no hope and jumps into the River Seine.
|Asmund Laerdal with the first CPR Annie, which was designed after his own 2-year-old son was found floating unconscious in the sea.|
In the 19th century, France was more of a morbid place. Dead bodies were placed in glass cases for public display. This was how people identified the dead at the morgue. No one claimed the woman who jumped.
But according to the WNYC radio show Radiolab, because she was pretty many people lined up to see her. A plaster mask was even made of her face.
Death masks were another morbid custom. After death, celebrities like Napoleon or Robespierre had plaster casts made of their faces. The anonymous woman, who came to be known as L’Inconnue de la Seine (the unknown woman of the Seine), entered their ranks in the afterlife.
But that is not the weird part of this story! I am afraid that before this column gets to a sunnier place I have to share the story of one more drowning.
In the 1950s, toymaker Asmund Laerdal of Norway was on vacation when his 2-year-old son wandered away. The next thing Laerdal knew his boy was floating unconscious in the sea.
No one had come up with CPR yet, but the toymaker managed to save his boy by shaking him. Soon after, Laerdal was contacted by Peter Safar, an Austrian doctor who was developing CPR.
Safar thought that a dummy would be the most effective way to teach people his new life-saving technique. All Safar needed was a face for the dummy.
He contacted Laerdal because in addition to toys, he made prosthetics for the military. In this saga full of coincidences, it just so happened that Laerdal’s parents had one of the masks fashioned from the unknown woman’s face hanging in their home.
Upon seeing it, Laerdal was awestruck. It was the perfect face for the CPR dummy, he thought. It still is. All these years later, it is still the face of Resusci Anne, Rescue Anne, or CPR Annie, as the dummy is known.
If you have learned CPR on a mannequin, whether in a hospital or a local chapter of the Red Cross, you know her intimately.
From the 1960s to the modern day, all around the world, how many of us have learned to save drowning victims by first learning to save the anonymous woman who died alone all those years ago?