A husband relied on his Red Cross CPR training to save his wife as she went into cardiac arrest just weeks after she gave birth to their son.
When Luke Benrud walked into his kitchen and found his wife, Andrea, laying on the floor, his first thought was that she could have tripped on a step walking back into the house. But as he stood there holding their newborn son, Aiden, he noticed Andrea’s face turning a bright purple hue, and he knew then that he had to act quickly.
“I checked her head and there wasn’t any blood, then I realized she didn’t have a heartbeat, or anything,” Bedrud, 31, of Appleton, Wisconsin, tells PEOPLE of the terrifying night in August 2016. “I set Aiden down, he’s screaming, and I got on the phone with 911. I had them on speakerphone while I’m giving Andrea chest compressions with my 5-week-old screaming in the background and our dogs running around.”
Benrud pumped down on his wife’s chest over and over again, doing his best to stay focused despite the commotion around him. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the purplish color of Andrea’s face began to fade—it was the first sign that the chest compressions were working.
“I knew where you needed to do the compressions, and I remember that you have to do them harder than you would think you’d have to do them,” Benrud recalls. “You do them faster and harder than you would think, especially when it’s your wife, right? You don’t want to hurt her, but I knew you have to do them with enough pressure.”
When a 911 operator told him over the speakerphone that paramedics were outside and he needed to restrain his dogs, Benrud told them there was no way he was stopping CPR until there was someone next to him ready to take over. At that point, Benrud had been administering compressions for seven minutes.
Paramedics shocked Andrea twice with a defibrillator until her heart began to beat once again. Benrud says watching this was one of the hardest parts of the entire ordeal.
“As I did CPR and talked to 911 with Aiden screaming, my adrenaline was going and I was in the moment not really processing what’s going on, just doing what I needed to do,” he says. “Once I’m standing there holding Aiden watching someone else give Andrea CPR and hook her up to the defibrillator, that’s when it hit me, the gravity of the situation.”
Andrea was placed in a drug-induced coma in the ICU for three days as doctors set her in a hypothermic state and slowly raised her temperature to minimize any damage. For those excruciating days, Benrud had no idea if Andrea would show signs of brain damage when she awoke.
“Those were a pretty hard three days with the little one at home,” Benrud says, “not knowing how she was going to come out of all this.”
Fortunately, Andrea didn’t experience any brain damage thanks to the life-saving actions by her husband. Doctors eventually discovered that she had an undiagnosed heart condition called non-compaction syndrome, which caused her go into cardiac arrest that night. Andrea underwent a procedure to install an ICD and isn’t expected to have any other major issues as a result of the condition. Benrud says he is thankful that he remembered what he learned in his CPR classes. which he took on a whim years ago.
“It’s a really easy thing to do. I know it’s easy for people to think that they’re never going to need that skill, or something like that is never gonna happen to them, or their family is healthy, or whatever,” he says. “But we’re a perfect example of how it can literally happen to anybody.”
Benrud wants to inspire families around the country to sign up for CPR classes so that they may be prepared when the unexpected happens.
“If it wasn’t for me knowing CPR, knowing what to do, Andrea probably wouldn’t be here today,” he says. “I would probably be raising our son on my own. It was just a huge awakening for us on how quickly life can change.”