‘It was pretty surreal’: Gladstone man uses CPR skills to save his wife’s life

Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 10:41 PM CDT
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GLADSTONE, Mo. (KCTV) - A Gladstone couple is celebrating a new lease on life after a cardiac arrest. They’re now using that second chance to send a message that could help save more lives.

Jennifer and Tom Schueddig will celebrate 28 years of marriage this year. They’ve been going strong, but there’s nothing quite like a life-or-death experience to solidify that.

The pair were having their morning coffee in their sunroom on February 17th. Jennifer was sporting her new Chiefs Super Bowl Champions t-shirt. She had a little pain between her shoulder blades and thought she has a bit of indigestion. Suddenly, she leaned forward towards the glass-topped ottoman and collapsed.

“It was pretty surreal,” recalled Tom Schueddig. “I’m trying to figure out what’s happening.”

A month later, you’d never know Jennifer Schueddig nearly died, aside from the portable defibrillator she carries with her. She doesn’t remember anything about what happened but is smiling and animated as she recounts what others have told her about Gladstone Fire and EMS rushing her to North Kansas City Hospital.

“They said they had to shock me five times on the way to the hospital,” she emphasized.

Medics and EMTs arrived at the Shueddig’s home just two minutes after Tom called 911. Jennifer’s cardiologist said that made a big difference, but so did Tom’s intervention performing CPR while they were enroute.

“Her lips were gray and granite-looking and I realized she wasn’t breathing,” Tom described. “I started to kind of freak out…. But then I realized, ‘Hey, you know CPR. You’re going to need to do it.’”

He first learned CPR in the Air Force in 1978 and has been re-certified every two years since. He never once used it until Jennifer’s heart stopped. He gave her chest compressions while simultaneously calling 911, calling out to his Google Assistant to place the call for him.

Jennifer was treated by Dr. Justin S. Maxfield, a cardiologist with Meritas Health Cardiology, who is on staff at North Kansas City Hospital.

“To be able to perform that in that kind of situation on your own wife is truly remarkable,” Maxfield remarked. “And he did it well. It made all the difference.”

Maxfield noted that less than 10% of people who have cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting survive. But Jennifer did more than just survive. So far, she shows no sign of neurological impairment. That’s significant.

“The biggest thing we worry about when the heart has stopped beating is the lack of blood flow going to multiple organs, most specifically the brain,” he explained. “The fact that Jennifer recovered so well shows that that CPR was circulating oxygen to her brain.”

“He saved my life,” Jennifer said, looking at Tom. “We’ve always had a strong marriage, but this really just, there’s not enough thank yous, there’s not the words to….”

Tom interrupted before she could finish.

“I don’t want a lot of thank-yous,” he said.

What he wants is for their story to inspire others to take CPR training and stay on top of it so that they too may save someone else’s life. He had just completed his latest bi-annual certification three weeks before Jennifer’s cardiac arrest. They’ve since had three friends sign up for CPR training.

“I mean, I wouldn’t be here,” said Jennifer, “had he not gotten CPR training.”

There are multiple options for training.

North Kansas City Hospital and Meritas Health offer hybrid CPR classes with in-person skills assessments. You can learn more here.

The American Red Cross offers coursework on multiple levels and platforms. Enter your zip code here to find the closest one.

Another option is the American Heart Association.

Several local fire departments also offer on-site training.