A friend of mind recently complimented me and added, “I’m not just blowing smoke up your bum.” I laughed at the sudden, ridiculous mental image that that phrase evoked and wondered where the heck that figure of speech came from.
I was curious enough to look it up later. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it was a real thing — and not only was it a real thing, it was a drowning resuscitation thing!
I can hear you collectively exclaiming a disbelieving, “Whaaat?” but it’s true. In the 1700s, doctors would administer tobacco smoke enemas as a common resuscitation method for drowning victims.
The medical reasoning at the time espoused warmth and stimulation when patients appeared to be dead. And, upon observing the medicinal uses of smoke by Native Americans, Westerners mistakenly thought that tobacco smoke would deliver the required warmth and respiratory stimulation, enough to revive a drowning victim. But bizarrely, only if administered through the rectum.
Stories abound of near drowning victims being revived this way. One of the earliest documented cases occurred in 1746, when a man inserted the stem of a pipe into the rectum of his seemingly drowned wife and “blew hard.” She was apparently revived.
The practice was so widely accepted that by 1780, the Royal Humane Society, a U.K.-based organization that promoted resuscitation techniques, installed rescue kits along the Thames River that were equipped with the appropriate tools to administer smoke enemas, including a bellows.
I can only imagine what our Most Valuable Products issue would’ve been like had we been around back then — I suspect a lot of bellows and barrels (drowning victims were also rolled over barrels to compress/decompress the chest). Thankfully for today’s lifeguards, no enema bellows appear in this issue. Rather, it’s full of very modern and state-of-the-art aquatics products — the top 25 that particularly captured our readers’ interest from our annual New Products issue. Whether your pools are large or small, few or many, I’m sure you’ll find something valuable to add to your facility in this issue.
And I’m not just blowing smoke up your bum.