Milan woman makes it real

Beth Rumsey
Staff Writer

Part theatre makeup artist and part mad scientist, Birgit Hawkins of Milan, uses skills learned several years ago in her native Germany to create realistic looking accident victims used during training sessions for various agencies in the area.

Hawkins studied cosmetology in Germany for six years learning everything possible in the theatre makeup trade. Because her husband was in the military, Hawkins and her family moved often making it difficult to find employment using her talents.

Instead, she would help with the makeup in school productions. Hawkins even applied for a position at Disneyland in California, but was told she was over-qualified.

Currently, Hawkins is an EMT with the Milan and Dillsboro Rescue Units. It was a chance invitation to assist with training that changed her life forever.

According to Hawkins, when she receives a scenario for a mock disaster, she determines what type of injuries will be seen during that particular disaster. “I try to prepare people for what they will see in a real-life situation,” she noted.

There are many everyday items that Hawkins uses in her creations such as beauty masks and scrubs or even more exotic items such as animal bones and internal organs purchased from the butcher shop.

This Spring the Osgood Volunteer Fire Department staged a disaster at the Jac-Cen-Del school where multiple injuries were sustained due to a mock gas explosion. Hawkins was on hand to make up the many participants, which was quite a challenge.

Sometimes Hawkins will spend several hours researching a project. She draws from real life incidents by viewing pictures of accidents on the Internet. “I like the challenge,” Hawkins said. “I strive to make people wonder if it is real.”

Her children love helping with projects, according to Hawkins. While three of her four children are no longer living at home, her youngest son, Jason, a sophomore at Milan High School, still helps out. “My son is my guinea pig,” she told the Osgood Journal.

What she sees as an EMT motivates her to do what she does so well. “What a person sees as an EMT stays with you,” she said.

Hawkins plans to continue her work with the training sessions as long as possible. “If they need me, I’m there,” she concluded.

Birgit Hawkins uses everyday items to create realistic looking injuries for training sessions for emergency personnel in Ripley County. Pictured above, Hawkins creates facial injury on willing "victim" Joe Ullmann, fellow EMT at the Dillsboro Rescue Unit. Pictured below is a close-up of her work.