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Quick action saves pregnant woman and baby after cardiac arrest

MENASHA, Wis. (WBAY) — A young Menasha mom is thanking her lucky stars after a recent cardiac arrest incident put her life and her baby’s life in jeopardy.

“To have a young pregnant mom go into cardiac arrest and have both baby and mom survive is really remarkable,” said Nick Romenesko, systems director with Gold Cross Ambulance.

It’s the outcome Gold Cross Ambulance paramedics hope for every time they respond to a 911 call, but it’s the result they rarely get.

“The paramedics on that call will likely not have such a great outcome ever again in their careers,” said Romenesco.

In July, 27-year-old Chelsea McElligott was nearing the end of her first pregnancy at 38 weeks.

“I honestly thought it was dehydration and I was dizzy and felt sick,” said McElligott.

A trip to the emergency room and some fluids later, she was sent back home and went to bed. She didn’t realize an hour later she would stop breathing and suffer a cardiac arrest.

“From the sounds of it I made a really weird noise. [My husband] woke up from that noise, noticed I wasn’t breathing and called 911,” said McElligott.

Within minutes the paramedics were on scene using an automated external defibrillator, or AED, to shock her heart.

“They had to do that 3 times before the heart was shocked back into normal rhythm,” said Romenesko.

When paramedics finally found a pulse, Chelsea was rushed to the emergency room for an emergency caesarian section.

“By the time he got out, he didn’t have a pulse so they had to shock him right away, too,” said McElligott.

An EKG revealed McElligott had an undiagnosed heart condition called Wolf Parkinson White Syndrome (WPW). It’s a rare condition where there’s an extra electrical pathway between the lower and upper part of the heart. Some of the symptoms include a sensation of rapid, fluttering or pounding heartbeats, dizziness, shortness of breath, fainting, fatigue and anxiety.

Being her first kid, McElligott thought her rapid heart rate and dizziness were due to the pregnancy, but she soon realized she had suffered those symptoms for the past 15 years.

“[My heart] would race really fast for 20-30 seconds at a time, then go back to normal. I never thought it was anything,” said McElligott.

But for McElligott it was something serious that almost took her life and her unborn child’s life. However, the immediate medical intervention saved both mom and baby James who is now a healthy 3-month-old.

For those reasons, McElligott has decided to share her story. She wants others to listen to their body and ask questions if something doesn’t feel right.

“I have felt it most of my life, so if I would have pushed farther and asked to see a specialist or asked for some tests to be done, they could have done surgery before I got pregnant and before any of this ever happened,” said McElligott.

McElligott recently had surgery to remove the excess electrical pathway in her heart and is doing well.

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ShirJia Bielefeld

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