Kyle Hayes wasn’t supposed to have been home the night his wife Jennifer went into cardiac arrest while 30-weeks pregnant.
“We really believe that it was divine intervention,” said Jennifer.
Divine intervention or pure coincidence – no matter what you call it, the events leading up to Jennifer’s cardiac arrest helped to save her life and the life of her unborn child.
That afternoon, Kyle was on his way to work when an SUV traveling in front of him blew a tire.
“The driver lost control and ended up causing an accident,” said Kyle. “I was the first person on-scene following the crash.”
Shaken up by the wreck, Kyle decided to take the rest of the day off to be with his family and he headed home.
Later that evening though, after Kyle, Jennifer and their 3-year old son Matthew returned from dinner, the day took another turn for the worse.
She was face-down on the floor in front of the bed, and her arms were shaking,"
Jennifer had taken Matthew upstairs to put him in bed when all of a sudden she collapsed.
Hearing the commotion from down the hall, Kyle rushed to his wife’s aid. But when he tried to wake her, she was completely unresponsive.
“She was face-down on the floor in front of the bed, and her arms were shaking,” said Kyle. “When I couldn’t wake her, I ran into the master bedroom to grab my phone and dial 911.”
The dispatcher immediately began walking Kyle through what position to place Jennifer in to start CPR, but just as he was preparing to start compressions, he had a thought.
“Like a flash in my head, I remembered seeing that our neighbor was home,” said Kyle. “He’s a police officer, so I knew he would be able to help me.”
Not wanting to waste time, he sprinted downstairs and across the street.
Without waiting for an answer, he pounded heavily on the neighbor’s door, turned and ran back to Jennifer.
“I left our front door wide open, and ran back upstairs,” said Kyle.
Just as he was starting compressions, the neighbor called from the doorway.
“I asked Russ to come up to Matthew’s room, and he immediately took over doing compressions so I could take my son downstairs,” said Kyle.
After getting Matthew calmed down and settled in the living room with a movie, Kyle ran back upstairs where Russ was still performing CPR on Jennifer.
“He had just finished another round of compressions when she took a big gasp of air,” said Kyle.
They weren’t sure if that was a good sign or not, but the pair didn’t have long to question the situation because, at that moment, paramedics from Riverside County CAL Fire and officers from the local Police Department arrived.
“I was in ventricular fibrillation when the paramedics arrived,” said Jennifer. “I got two shocks from a manual defibrillator and received over 10 minutes of CPR before my heart returned to a normal rhythm. They transported me to the Emergency Department at Corona Regional Hospital.”
Far too shaken to drive himself, Kyle was given a ride to the hospital by one of the police officers on the scene.
What he would find when he arrived at the hospital though would be a hard sight to take in.
“When I got to Jennifer’s room, she was intubated,” said Kyle. “She was having seizures.”
Trying his best to stay strong for his wife, son, and unborn child, Kyle knew the best thing he could do was to ask the doctors what was going on.
“At that point, our family and friends began arriving,” said Kyle. “While they were working with a great volunteer from TIPS, I was trying to ask the doctors as many questions as I could think of before we let anyone back to see her.”
After answering all of Kyle’s questions, Jennifer’s doctor informed him that he felt it was best if she were transported by helicopter to UC Irvine Medical Center.
“He let me know that this was a very critical situation that Jennifer was in and that this would be the best course of action,” said Kyle.
He let me know that this was a very critical situation that Jennifer was in and that this would be the best course of action,"
With time being a critical factor in her care, the medical team from Corona Regional immediately contacted REACH Air Medical’s 24-hour communications center to request a helicopter.
REACH 13/H325, a base operated in partnership with the San Bernardino County Fire Department, received the call that night. On shift was Pilot Joshua Allen, Flight Nurse Nicholas Garcia, and Flight Paramedic Ryan Morgan.
“When we arrived at bedside, Jennifer looked visibly uncomfortable,” said Nicholas. “She was posturing and chewing on her ET tube, so we wanted to do everything we could to make her comfortable. On hearing she was pregnant, our first course of action though was to confirm that the fetal heart tones were good.”
After confirming that the baby’s heart tones were, in fact, normal, Nicholas and Ryan gave Jennifer some medication to help with her pain and to keep her sedated in flight.
“Because Corona Regional Hospital doesn’t have a helipad, we had to take Jennifer by ground ambulance to the airport where the aircraft was waiting,” said Nicholas.
Jennifer and her medical equipment were safely prepared for transport, while Kyle and other family members said their goodbyes. Nicholas and Ryan loaded Jennifer into a waiting ambulance and headed to Corona Municipal Airport.
When they arrived, Josh was ready and waiting to fly them safely to Irvine.
“When we got in the air, we really focused on keeping Jennifer as comfortable as possible,” said Nicholas. “And as soon as we could, we radioed ahead to UCI to request that a labor and delivery nurse be ready to check the baby’s heart tones when we arrived.”
Monitoring Jennifer closely, Nicholas and Ryan were looking for any signs that may have indicated a change in her or the baby’s condition. Thankfully, the flight went smoothly, and soon Josh was safely touching the aircraft down on the helipad at UCI.
Upon their arrival, Nicholas and Ryan transported Jennifer to the Medical Intensive Care Unit and into the care of a waiting team of clinicians whose next steps were to figure out the cause of her cardiac arrest and the impact it was having on the baby.
After several rounds of tests, they concluded it was likely eclampsia, a rare but serious condition that results in high blood pressure and seizures during pregnancy.
Not wanting to put Jennifer or the baby at further risk, they decided to do an emergency C-section.
In the early morning hours of November 10, 2017, Micah Hayes was brought safely into the world. With his dad by his side, Micah was immediately admitted to the NICU for care. He was premature by 10 weeks and would need the help of the NICU team to thrive.
Through all this, Jennifer was still unstable. The cardiac arrest, eclampsia, and subsequent C-section had all done damage to her body and doctors were going to have to treat her carefully to give her a chance at a full recovery.
After days of uncertainty, doctors finally felt comfortable waking Jennifer up from sedation. She suffered some memory loss and required a lot of assistance from Kyle and the rest of her family, but she was otherwise doing well– news that everyone was pleased to hear.
Today Jennifer still can’t quite recall the first time she met Micah, but definitely remembers touching her precious boy for the very first time.
I remember seeing him and thinking, ‘oh my gosh, I can’t believe that’s him, he’s so small,”
“I remember seeing him and thinking, ‘oh my gosh, I can’t believe that’s him, he’s so small,” said Jennifer. “They let me touch him, and one of the very first things I told him was that I was his mommy and that I loved him and that he was going to be ok. I put my hand on his little back and the moment was so surreal. I couldn’t believe any of this happened, especially because of my line of work and my passion.”
Just another example of coincidence in her amazing story, Jennifer is a Pediatric ICU Nurse who specializes in teaching high-quality CPR to clinicians at the children’s hospital where she works.
“I truly believe that everything happens for a reason,” said Jennifer. “And against all odds, Micah and I survived, and it is because of my husband and neighbor starting high-quality CPR, followed by the expert care we received from the first responders, the ED Staff at Corona Regional, the REACH flight crew, and the clinicians at UCI. Everyone that touched me played a part in our survival.”