- Luke Benrud gave his wife Andrea CPR after she collapsed from cardiac arrest on the kitchen floor in August 2016 in Appleton, Wisconsin
- Doctors discovered the mom who had given birth five weeks prior had a heart defect called left-ventricular non-compaction cardiomyopathy
- Heart disease like Andrea's is the leading cause of maternal death during childbirth, and the US has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the world
- Tennis star Serena Williams opened up about her near-death experience in childbirth last month to highlight the need for better maternal care
A husband gave his wife life-saving CPR after she went into cardiac arrest just five weeks after giving birth to their son.
Luke Benrud found his wife Andrea collapsed and without a heartbeat on their kitchen floor in August 2016 in Appleton, Wisconsin, and was able to keep her alive with chest compressions until the paramedics arrived.
In the hospital, doctors discovered Andrea had left-ventricular non-compaction cardiomyopathy, a difficult-to-diagnose heart defect that inhibits the heart's ability to pump blood.
Without her husband's knowledge of CPR, Andrea would have died before doctors were able to diagnose the condition and he would be raising their now one-and-a-half-year-old son on his own.
When Luke saw Andrea on the floor he assumed she had tripped before noticing that her face was turning bright purple.
'I checked her head and there wasn't any blood, then I realised she didn't have a heartbeat, or anything,' said the 31-year-old.
He set their newborn son Aiden down and called 911 as he gave her chest compressions, which he had learned in a first aid seminar.
Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart is suddenly unable to pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs, causing the person to lose consciousness and their pulse.
In Andrea's case, the arrest was a result of her cardiomyopathy, which causes the heart walls to be thick and spongy rather than smooth.
After about seven minutes of compressions, Andrea's face began to turn back to its normal color, indicating that the blood was reaching her head.
The paramedics arrived and shocked Andrea's chest twice to restart her heart.
Luke said the few seconds between the shocks and when her heart started beating were some of the longest of his life.
'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 said.
'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.'
To minimize potential damage to the brain after it was deprived of blood for so long, the doctors put Andrea in a hypothermic state.
She stayed in a drug-induced coma for three days as the doctors slowly raised her temperature and Luke waited to see if there would be signs of brain damage when she woke up.
'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.'
Thanks to her husband administering CPR, Andrea came out of the coma without any brain damage.
The doctors implanted an implantable cardioverter cardiac defibrillator (ICD) to regulate her heartbeat.
With the help of the device that's similar to a pacemaker, she is not expected to have any other major issues as a result of the condition.
Heart disease like Andrea's is the leading cause of maternal death during childbirth, and the US has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the world.
Tennis star Serena Williams opened up about her near-death experience in childbirth last month to highlight the need for better maternal care around the world.
Luke told his story because March is National Red Cross month, and he wants to inspire other families to sign up for the CPR class that saved his wife's life.
'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.'
'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.'