Dummies and docs save lives

13 Feb 2004 | Lance Cpl. Justin V. Eckersley

“Nurse, hey nurse,” Fred said. “Isn’t it time for my sponge bath? While you’re at it, get me something to drink, I’m thirsty.”

At first glance, the First Responder Emergency Device looks a lot like a regular dummy, but looks are where the similarities between Fred and a typical medical practice dummy end, according to Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Witherspoon, Program Director, Human Patient Simulation, Navy Medical Education and Training Command, who also prompted Fred’s verbal responses.

The $30,000 human imitation packs up in about an hour and can be transported in the back of a truck, according to Witherspoon. Fred has femoral, carotid and radial pulses that can be raised or lowered depending on Fred’s ailment. Its chest rises and falls with each breath, and its lungs can emit sounds such as wheezing, coughing and gurgling. Fred can clamp his jaw shut, swallow its tongue, receive shocks from a defibrillator, and have its skin cut into.

As preparation for Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115’s upcoming deployments, Witherspoon brought Fred to the Branch Medical Clinic to give the BMC personnel hands-on training with the versatile dummy.

The training is focused on refreshing medical personnel’s basic skills, while also preparing them for specific emergencies they may face, such as scorpion stings, according to Witherspoon.

“This training will be really important for what we’re doing in support of 273 and 115 in Iraq,” said Capt. Louis E. Antosek, director, BMC.

The dummy’s advanced sensors and feedback units provide medical personnel with hands-on training that would be impossible without using a human being.

“With Fred, I can act like the Wizard of Oz, the man behind the curtain,” Witherspoon said. “I can put docs in situations they might never have experienced before.”

“The first time a lot of (medical personnel) practice any of these skills, it’s on a real patient,” Witherspoon said. “With Fred, they can practice until they get it perfect.”