Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Lifesaving techniques studied during sabbatical

In the mid-’60s Christian College announced that one full-time faculty member might be granted sabbatical leave if he or she needed extra time to pursue original ideas. One day in the faculty lounge I said, "What a great opportunity! But a physical education teacher wouldn’t have a chance." Someone asked, "Why not?"

I pondered that and submitted a proposal. I was eager to study the history of artificial respiration, spontaneous recreation and international youth hostels. To my complete surprise several weeks later, it was announced that I had been granted the college’s first sabbatical leave. It was for the second semester of the 1968-69 school year - and with full pay.

The word "sabbatical" is related to Sabbath. Sabbatical leave is "a period of absence for study, rest and travel."

I also viewed this good fortune as a reward for 23 years on Christian’s faculty and for national recognition for several water-safety innovations.

When teaching first-aid and life-saving classes, I read of unusual ways ancient people tried to bring life back to drowning people. Some techniques probably saved lives because they were a little like the later Heimlich maneuver - today’s only technique for non-medical people to get water out of lungs. Before written history, people apparently drowned were sometimes whipped with thorny briars. The Chinese immersed a lifeless body in hot oil! Russians buried the drowned person in warm sand in either a sitting or supine position.

I started sculpting these techniques using Boone County’s high-firing stoneware clay. I now have represented more than 35 historical techniques. Check out color photos of four figurines on the dust cover of my book "Just Leave the Dishes."

Through the years, people invented devices they thought would aid in reviving a drowned person without knowing that only about three minutes remains in the life of a human who has stopped breathing. One device looked like an old-fashioned automobile tire pump.

It caused many deaths because there was no way to determine whether the person’s lungs were full or empty; a wrong guess destroyed the lungs!

A similar mishap could occur with the fireplace bellows. Doctors vigorously objected to both bellows and pulmotor - but people didn’t listen.

There is, even today, the feeling that some device - a mask, a throat tube, etc. - is to be trusted more than two bare hands! Other techniques required a second person, a horse, a tree, a rope, a plank, a barrel, a bedsheet, a teeter-totter or other objects.

Luckily, a major change in artificial respiration occurred in 1856 with the direct method, which required only one person and no equipment. Many more lives could be saved.

Around 1974, people all over the world learned the Heimlich maneuver for choking. However, many in this country still do not know that thoracic surgeon Henry Heimlich devised that simple technique for both drowning and choking. Drowning is choking on water!

Many people in the United States still do not know that the same pressures on the abdomen that remove objects - balloons, small toys, chunks of beef - also remove water from airways in people apparently drowned and that the water gushes out in only 10 seconds if applied within the three-minute limit.

What about CPR and rescue, or mouth-to-mouth, breathing? Perhaps it’s OK for some other accidents, but it’s certainly not for drowning! The simple truth is that you cannot force air into water-filled lungs!

Another Monday I’ll tell about my sabbatical study of spontaneous recreation and of the youth hostels I visited during my solo sabbatical bicycle trip in Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.

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