Ashley Goette stood over her husband Andrew’s lifeless body and pushed down on his chest, hoping the compressions would bring him back. He was 28 and she was 39 weeks pregnant, expecting their first baby in just days.
As she pushed down, she counted out loud. One. Two. Three. “This can’t be happening,” she repeated over and over as a 911 dispatcher instructed her in CPR and emergency workers made their way to the couple’s West St. Paul home about 5 a.m. on Oct. 16.
On Tuesday, Ashley, 28, sat alongside Andrew’s bed at United Hospital in St. Paul as he cradled their newborn son, dark silky hair tucked under a stocking cap. The family of three expects to be home together by week’s end, and all three are expected to be fine.
That wasn’t always the prognosis. “Things were dicey,” said Dr. Alex Teeters, a pulmonary and critical care specialist.
Moments before Andrew went into cardiac arrest last week, Ashley had nudged him to roll over because she thought he was snoring. Instead, he was gasping for air, she said Tuesday. Emergency workers, equipped with a defibrillator, got Andrew’s heart beating again and rushed him to the hospital. “When I left the house, part of me had to come to terms that he wouldn’t be coming home to me,” Ashley said. But she packed jeans, a sweatshirt and tennis shoes in hopes he would.
At the hospital, doctors cooled his body to 91 degrees, hoping to increase his odds for survival and decrease neurological damage, Teeters said.
It wasn’t clear whether Andrew would live, and if he did whether he had suffered significant brain damage.
Doctors, nurses and others at the hospital prepared Ashley for the worst. As the baby kicked inside her, she was told to think about hospice care and possibly having to decide to end life support for her husband. She couldn’t do that. She was terrified.
“I was refusing to believe it would get to that point,” Ashley said. “I didn’t want to think about having a baby without him. … I’ve known him since I was 15. I don’t remember my life before him, and I didn’t want to think about what my life was going to be like without him.”
Libby Remmers, an intensive care nurse, left the hospital that night determined to get the young couple through this ordeal. “I was going to fight,” she said. “I went home that first night and thought, ‘This can’t happen. This guy has to hold this baby.’ ”
A day later, doctors warmed Andrew’s body while his family waited, watching monitors, praying and hoping.
When Remmers asked Andrew to open his eyes, he did. When she squeezed his hand, he squeezed back. Soon, he was awake and recovering.
A day later, he was wheeled in his hospital bed to Ashley’s room, where doctors induced labor. When a Caesarean section was performed the next day, Andrew couldn’t be wheeled into the room to be at his wife’s side.
Instead, Ashley’s older sister, Kelly Staples, watched the birth and recorded it live on FaceTime as Andrew watched on the other side of the door. “I felt like I was there,” he said.
At 5:16 p.m. on Oct. 19, Lennon “Lenny” Goette, 6 pounds, 14 ounces, was born and put in the arms of his father, who held him against his shirtless chest with monitor wires hanging from it.
The prognosis for Andrew now is fantastic, his doctor declared Tuesday. Teeters said his heart likely went into an abnormal rhythm, causing the cardiac arrest in the early-morning hours. Doctors have since performed a procedure to correct a defect diagnosed as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which can increase the risk of heart arrhythmia.
As a new mom, Ashley undoubtedly will revel in watching her son sleep in her arms, the tiny body moving up and down with each breath. And for some time, she also will watch her husband sleep and listen to him breathe. She admitted that she’ll be nervous.
“He’s coming home,” Ashley added. “And that’s the only thing that matters.”