Just about everyone - including yours truly - who has heard the story of Annie, the CPR training dummy, has it at least partly wrong. So it's high time that I try to set the record straight.
Here's how I told the tale in my 1984 book, "The Choking Doberman," where I described the plot as "a medical horror legend with a semihappy ending":"A beautiful young girl named Annie died for lack of anyone properly trained in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) techniques to save her life. So her wealthy father financed the development of a lifelike practice dummy for CPR training, stipulating that the face on the model should be that of his beloved daughter and that all the future dummies made on this design should be known as `Annies' in her honor."
I doubted the story partly because of its neat plot and sentimental tone, and partly because several people told me slightly different versions. Some, for example, claimed that a Chicago doctor had bankrolled the doll, while others said that he was from another American city or even from abroad.
The age of the alleged victim varied from that of a toddler up to the midteens, and the claimed accident was either a drowning or an automobile crash. Some people dated the incident as far back as the 1930s, while others said it occurred in the 1950s or '60s.
The whole heart-tugging plot in all its variations smelled like a legend to me. But many readers who had taken or taught CPR courses disagreed, and they were quick to inform me that Annie's story was true - sort of.
It turns out that the most popular training dummy used for CPR practice comes from the factory wearing a tag that reads "Resusci Anne," and the name is pronounced "Annie" by everyone involved in CPR training. That much is true.
But the company behind this mannequin is Laerdal Medical Corp., a Norway-based manufacturer that markets Resusci Anne worldwide in several versions. Their lifelike dummy that resembles a teenage girl was introduced in 1957 after two Norwegians, businessman Asmund S. Laerdal and a doctor from Stavanger, collaborated with Peter Safar, a Baltimore doctor, to create the CPR training aid.
None of the people involved in developing Resusci Anne had lost a daughter in an accident, nor did they model the mannequin's face on anyone whom they knew personally.
According to the Laerdal company, the face of the dummy was based on a death mask made from the body of an unidentified young woman found early this century floating in the Seine River in Paris. Her case became a popular European story, and the image of her face was well-known.
The name "Anne" was adapted from a baby doll named "Anna" that was at one time manufactured by Laerdal. Foreigners later shifted the pronunciation to "Annie" and also improved on the story of her death.
A good article on the legend of Annie appeared in the Detroit Free Press after the training dummy turned 30 in 1987. The author, David Hacker, quoted this version from an American Red Cross CPR brochure:
"In the 1930s, a little girl named Anne was playing on the banks of one of the canals in Norway and toppled in. Rescuers pulled her out but it was too late. . . . The little girl's father, Dr. Asman Leauridal, set about developing a mannequin which closely resembled his daughter."
"The canals of Norway"? "Leauridal"?
Or, if you prefer, here's the beginning of another fanciful version that Hacker found in safety literature distributed by the Michigan State Police:
"During the summer of 1957, a 15-year-old Norwegian girl drowned while swimming in a fjord at Stavanger, Norway. A noted industrialist witnessed this tragic loss of life and immediately set to work the wheels of engineering, designing and manufacturing a life-size mannequin which is the image of the drowned girl."
From the rather prosaic facts about the origin of Resusci Anne, people have created these "legends," and if you take a CPR course (which is a darned good idea!), you'll likely hear yet another version of the story.
"Curses! Broiled Again," Jan Harold Brunvand's fourth collection of urban legends, is available in paperback from Norton. Send your questions and urban legends to him in care of the Deseret News.
1992 United Feature Syndicate Inc.