Take the Plunge next month

Penguin Plunge fund-raiser will help buy patient simulator

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As many as 100 people can help raise $40,000 for an infant human patient simulator by jumping into icy cold water in mid-March.

The second annual Penguin Plunge, sponsored by the Healthcare Foundation for the Yampa Valley, has been scheduled for March 19 at Lake Catamount.

The fund-raiser will help buy a computerized mannequin used to train emergency medical personnel and newborn caregivers. The simulator can re-create a variety of medical conditions and reacts to the medications or other care it is given in the same way a human infant would.

Last year, 61 people took the plunge, raising the $35,000 needed to buy an adult-sized human patient simulator, said Bonnie Bunker, spokeswoman for the Healthcare Foundation.

Bunker encouraged anyone interested to take part in this year's plunge. The only requirement is that the "penguin" raises at least $100. With that goal, the person receives a T-shirt, as well as the privilege of jumping into the icy water and taking part in the party and lunch that follow.

There are prizes for everyone involved, and the person who raises the most money wins a vacation, which likely will be to Florida, Bunker said.

People can jump by themselves or with a group, and costumes are welcome.

Raising the $100 minimum is pretty easy, Bunker said, "especially when you're telling people you're jumping in cold water."

This year's Penguin Plunge will be bittersweet for many, Bunker said. One of the people instrumental in initiating the event last year was Dave Linner, the director of Yampa Valley Air Ambulance who was killed in the Jan. 11 plane crash in Rawlins, Wyo.

"Dave was the heart and soul behind the Penguin Plunge and was looking forward to participating this year," said Steve Dawes, president of the Healthcare Foundation. "We know that Dave will be with us in spirit as we jump in that cold water."

The infant simulator that will be purchased looks like a baby, and when turned on, breathes and has vital signs, Bunker said. It's attached to a computer that can be programmed to mimic various medical scenarios; the medical workers in training have to treat the infant correctly.

The simulator responds to treatment, positively and negatively, and gives workers a chance to practice procedures that can be tricky on infants.

"It's just a lot of great hands-on experience for the entire community of health care providers for the (smallest) patients that you can get," Bunker said.

Those who are worried about jumping into frigid water -- last year, the water was 39 degrees -- should know that rescue divers are on hand if any help is needed.

"It's cold enough to give you the real experience and be kind of a wacky thing to do in the winter, but it's a safe environment, and the hot tubs are not too far away, either," Bunker said.

Anyone interested in jumping for this year's Penguin Plunge or donating to the event can contact the Healthcare Foundation at 871-2501 or e-mail Bonnie Bunker at bonnie.bunker@yvmc.org.

The Penguin Plunge is at noon March 19 at Lake Catamount.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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