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Tu-Uyen Tran, Forum Communications Co., Published October 21 2010

High-tech dummies simulate birth

Noelle the plastic lady is having a baby, a little plastic baby, but she’s doing her best to act like she’s flesh and blood. Her pulse quickens. Her belly bulges.

And she’s getting really upset about the constant pain building up inside. “The pain! I need something for the pain!” She cries out for an epidural.

“We don’t have time for that, hon,” Jennifer Laframboise says in a calm voice with a hint of merriness meant to keep Noelle calm. The nurse from Grand Forks’ Altru Health System puts a hand under the blanket and reaches into a mechanical birth canal. “Just checking the position,” she says, by way of apology.

Inside, her fingers touch something hard with a slight crease at the top, telling her the baby’s head is in the position it should be in. It won’t be a breech delivery. Another nurse calls for the doctor, Michael Brown, who comes in and suits up.

What’s happening here at UND’s Human Simulation Center is a simulation of the miracle of life. Noelle, technically known as Gaumard Scientific’s Model S575, is like one of those CPR dummies, but so much more advanced. She bleeds. She hemorrhages. She has seizures. Her heart beats. Her pupils dilate. Her baby, Hal, does, too. Both are controlled by technicians who can introduce all manners of complications.

“This is important,” Brown says. “There are high-risk situations that happen infrequently. We can practice these high-risk situations.”

The more practice staff has, the less scary it’ll be when it’s real, Laframboise says.

The university acquired Noelle and Hal earlier this year, along with other models of dummies, to train med students and doctors and nurses regionwide. Altru, which started bringing in its people last week, has other training dummies, but these are the most advanced because they respond like real people.

Altru plans to train its staff quarterly.

Tu-Uyen Tran is a writer for the Grand Forks Herald