Yesterday, I overcame a deep-seated dislike of blood and Little Anne dolls and managed to scrape by with my Level 1 First Aid training. It was only one day of learning, and yes, it's only Level 1, but I am proud to say I can now perform CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, artificial respiration, and the like. If I have to. But I hope I never will.
It all started when we realized at work that we were NOT AT ALL PREPARED in terms of safety. People seem to have a big fear of earthquakes here (I haven't yet been swayed to that mentality, but I guess I'll be the one who's sorry when the WHOLE OF VANCOUVER ISLAND sinks into the ocean by 15-20 metres because of some devastating earthquake. Or so I'm told.) We got to checking out our emergency earthquake kits in the office and discovered such delights as batteries that didn't work, dusty old blankets that gave me allergies, and a lack of things like shoes, whistles, and oh yeah- food supplies. So a safety committee was formed, and it was determined that, in addition to restocking the kits with fresh (and working!) supplies, a number of people on every floor should also be trained in first aid. Just in case. I volunteered.
Having first aid training is like donating blood, I figure: everybody urges you to do it, and everybody reminds you how many lives can be saved if and when you do it, and the nagging voice inside my head agrees with everything that is being argued in favour of doing it, but I never could bring myself to just go out and get first aid or to donate blood. Not donating blood was easy to rationalize: I have low iron, or I just had a piercing, or I was just in a foreign country, etc., etc. I could always find some reason to get out of donating blood. But first aid? The only reason why I secretly never learned before was because of those dreaded Annie dolls.
The last experience I had with an Annie doll was quite traumatic. Don't laugh-- it's true. I was participating in the P.A.R.T.Y. program with my Grade 9 class at the Foothills Hospital. For those of you not familiar with the program, it's basically designed to sway young people-- by any possible means-- not to drink and drive. You see graphic slide shows of car wrecks and detached feet or limbs, get heart wrenching presentations from people who have been affected personally by impaired driving or who have lost somebody to the same, see x-rays of broken bones and stab wounds from people who were injured by an impaired person, and even eat your lunch with a 'disability' caused by impaired driving (e.g. having to eat your lunch with oven mitts on to simulate the loss of fine motor skills). I was devastated by the PARTY program. I came home from it completely weeping, and a few years later, my sister had to leave the program early because she just couldn't tolerate the sadness and intensity of it all. Plus, there were those Annie dolls.
In the ER and ICU, they had Annie dolls hooked up to various machines to show us young people what might happen in the event of an impaired driving crash. I was fine looking at x-rays of actual injuries and real people's cracked skulls, but for some reason, I nearly fainted every time I came into contact with an Annie doll. Hearing the fake blood chorus through fake Annie's veins made me sick to my stomach, and upon seeing poor Annie hooked up to a respirator, I had to be escorted, fainting, out of the room by an alarmed nurse who kept shouting at me to "take my hands out of my pockets!" I positively could not handle those Annie dolls.
Long story short: volunteering to take First Aid training was kind of a big deal for me, because I KNEW we would be dealing with those Annie dolls and that I would have to face my nausea and feelings of faintness full-on. No wimping out here: 3 of my other coworkers would be training on the same day as well, and I didn't want them to have to report back to work that I failed the training because I fainted on sight of the Annie doll...
And? More than 15 years have passed since my first experience with Annie. I did okay yesterday. There were a few times when I feared I might throw up a little bit into Annie's mouth while I performed artificial respiration on her, but it never happened. I would just take a few seconds of rest, toughen up, and get back to saving her plastic life. On the flip side: I was really good at the whole communication part. I talked a mile a minute to Annie while trying to rescue her, and my instructor kept urging the rest of the students to be like me, "Keep talking to the casualty: let her know what you're doing!".
The funny thing is: I'm pretty sure I will be fine performing first aid on an actual, living person. (If I have to. But I hope I never will.) It's just those plastic creepy dolls that make me feel dizzy and sick. Curse you, Annie.