Meet Anne. She’s a very important mannequin: she saves lives. Anne was given to me at a short first aid course here in St Jean de Sixt after a friend talked me into going. As always, I was apprehensive about making some big faux pas in French and looking like a complete idiot.
The start of the course about heart attacks involved croissants, pains aux chocolate, juice and black coffee (hey, this isn’t a prevention course: let’s stuff our faces on fat!). This welcome should have made me less nervous, but watching the other participants walk in and greet everyone else with kisses, then a polite ‘bonjour’ for my friend and I made me wonder if we were the only two people in the room who the rest didn’t know personally.
Once seated, Anne the mannequin was given to each participant to keep. Immediately, I thought of fancy dress themes that I could use an extra head for and my nerves subsided. Anne comes with a fake mobile phone, a fake defibrillator, and a DVD of the course. She’s also boxed up with extra internal balloons in case of blow-outs. Anne’s face is modelled on a dead woman found in the Seine in the early 1900s. A suspected suicide, the body was never identified, and the authorities made a mask of her because of her striking beauty. Since then, romantic stories have been written about her, and, apparently, a first aid mannequin, which is slightly less romantic.
Three firemen (‘les pompiers‘) took the training course and were patient with all our questions, extending the course by fifteen minutes to cover everything. I was relieved when half the class was confused by which number to dial in an emergency in France. For the record, you can dial 15, 18 or 112 (15 and 18 are old French numbers and 112 is the European-wide number). All three go to the same switchboard. Being close to the border of Switzerland, we also learnt that the Swiss number is 118 (because Switzerland isn’t part of the European Union, so they have their own number).
With a serious voice, one fireman emphasised the need to respect the patient’s privacy and to prevent a crowd of people hovering around. When someone asked him how high up the chest to perform CPR, he said to look for the nipples and stay in line with them. “Unless they’re grandma boobs,” he said. “Then aim higher up.”
The 1.5-hour first aid course cost €12 (subsidised €10 by local authorities) and was well worth the pre-course nerves. If you live in France, check with your local council as these courses are running nationwide.