Cardiac arrest is a family event for one New Ulm mother
A swift response can make a big difference when a person is in cardiac arrest and New Ulm resident Terri Schreyer will forever be grateful that her son, Nate, sprung into action even if he wasn’t sure what he was doing when she collapsed at his house in June 2019.
Schreyer’s cardiac arrest was unusual from start to finish.
She was on her way to her son’s house on that Sunday afternoon when she pulled over to answer a phone call. It was her son-in-law, Dave, in Brooklyn Park, tearfully telling her that something had happened to her daughter, Jennifer. He had found her laying on the floor in the kitchen and she was on her way to North Memorial Hospital via ambulance.
She quickly told her son-in-law to keep her updated, hung up, and drove the final few blocks to Nate’s house.
“I walked in and said, ‘Something really bad has happened to Jennifer’,” Shreyer said. And that was the last thing she remembered until she woke up eight days later at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
Schreyer said she had some minor damage to her heart and the doctors think the shock of hearing about Jennifer sent her heart rate and blood pressure skyrocketing to a level that her heart could not take.
Her son, Nate, began CPR on his mother immediately, despite having no training in CPR beyond what was taught during swimming lessons in his youth. “They said that really saved me,” Schreyer said. “Just him pushing on my chest, without even knowing if he was doing it right. The doctors called him a hero and I agree.”
The physician and staff at the New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) Emergency Department worked on Schreyer for an hour and a half. “Dr. Brindle was just telling my family that they weren’t sure I was going to make it when a nurse came around the corner and said, ‘We have a pulse’,” Schreyer said.
The helicopter ambulance pilot asked Nate for his cell phone number because he, also, wasn’t optimistic that Schreyer would make it to the cardiac catheterization lab (cath lab) at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
She did make it, however. After eight days on a ventilator – part of that time in an induced hypothermic state to protect her organs – Schreyer woke up and surprised them all.
“The doctors at Abbott did nothing but praise all the actions that were taken for me before I got up there, starting with my son performing CPR, and the fact that they didn’t give up on me in the ER, even after an hour and a half,” Schreyer said. “All the right steps were taken.”
But Schreyer has an additional theory about why she made such a successful recovery.
“It was not my time to go. I still have too many things to do with my grandkids,” she said. She has seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
It turns out that Jennifer had also gone into cardiac arrest. Ultimately it was determined that it was a hereditary condition, passed on to her from her father, that the family was unaware of that caused her cardiac arrest. When she woke up in the hospital the next day, she was puzzled why her mother wasn’t among her visitors. Family members came up with some tall tales for a couple of days – until Jennifer was stronger – so as to not distress her with the news that her mother was on a ventilator and had not yet regained consciousness.
She and Jennifer both have defibrillators now and Schreyer takes some medication due to the damage to her heart, but otherwise, she recovered well. Her other daughter, Stephanie Meyer, and grandchildren have been tested for the genetic fluke that caused Jennifer’s cardiac arrest and it does not appear that any of them are in danger of the same thing happening.
For more information about the NUMC Emergency Department, go to allinahealth.org/numc and click on Emergency Department on the left side of the main page.