Schedule Now Pay Bill
be_ixf;ym_202312 d_11; ct_50

ND football fan reunites with Beacon cardiac nurse, his “guardian angel,” who saved his life

Like most survivors of sudden cardiac arrest, Mike Brown does not remember what happened when he lost consciousness last October at a University of Notre Dame football game in South Bend.

Mike Brown and his daughter, Christa Brubaker, stop for a quick photo on their way to their seats. (October 2022)

His last memory that afternoon was taking his seat beside his daughter in Notre Dame Stadium and watching the team throwing the ball around.

He doesn’t remember the National Anthem, coin toss or kickoff in the matchup against UNLV.

He doesn’t remember his daughter’s frantic cries for help after she couldn’t wake him after he seemingly fell asleep from some pain meds he had been taking after some dental work.

And the 77-year-old doesn’t remember the Beacon Health cardiac nurse seated nearby who jumped into action, performed CPR and ultimately saved his life.

How did Brown feel last weekend when fate brought them all together again at Notre Dame Stadium, and he was able to thank the nurse in person? He lifted a handkerchief to his face, too emotional to speak.

She was my guardian angel.


Christa Brubaker couldn’t wait to attend her first Notre Dame game. A parishioner at the Mansfield, Ohio school where she is principal offered her tickets. On the way to South Bend, she and her husband picked up her dad in Van Wert, Ohio, which is about 40 minutes from Fort Wayne.

Having visited the dentist the day before, Brown hadn’t eaten much and said he wasn’t feeling the best. His daughter made sure he got a pudding – something easy to eat –  and a Diet Coke at a rest stop filled many Fighting Irish fans on their way to the game.

Christa Brubaker and her dad, Mike Brown, watch warm-ups at Notre Dame Stadium. (October 2022)

“We got into our parking space and we didn’t have a whole lot of time so we didn’t tailgate. Dad had gone with my brothers several other times,” Brubaker said.

Section 2, Row 58.

Brubaker and her dad found their seats. Her husband took his seat two rows down. As Christa excitedly talked with fans around her, she glanced at her father and noticed he had closed his eyes and his head tilted forward, his chin resting on his gray Notre Dame Fighting Irish T-shirt.

She texted a picture to her mom back in Ohio.

Dad’s enjoying the warm sun,” Brubaker said.

I’ll bet he is,” her mom texted back, adding how he was probably tired from the pain medicine following his dental work.

“Should we go in, out of the sun?”

No, he loves it,” her mom replied. “He would be doing the same thing. here. Don’t worry.”

She told her daughter to just let him nap, but others started to notice and ask questions. Brubaker told a fan, as well as an usher, that her dad was OK.

“But the more I looked at him, I thought how he does not look good. So I reached over and his hand was kind of cold and clammy and I felt his wrist and didn’t really feel anything,” she said.

Dad, are you OK?” she asked, nudging his shoulder.

She didn’t get a response. So she hollered down to her husband.

I don’t think Dad is OK.”

Her husband jumped through the stands and started rubbing her dad’s chest and calling his name. He was not getting a response.

That’s when another nearby fan climbed over some people and calmly but confidently approached the family.

I’m a cardiac nurse, how can I help?


Their view of the field. (October 2022)

Lauren Huyvaert (pronounced HI-vert) admits she is perpetually late to Notre Dame games. It never bothers her to arrive after the games have started because she’s been attending since she was seven and has season tickets with her family.

Section 2, Row 58.

On the way to her seat, she noticed an older man who apparently had dozed off, and she thought to herself that he didn’t look very good. Huyvaert had her boyfriend ask if everything was OK. Again, Brubaker explained how he was tired from having dental work done the day before.

Minutes later, however, she overheard something alarming. She only heard it because it was an unusually quiet moment in the stadium. The announcers weren’t talking and the band wasn’t playing.

I can’t wake Dad up,” she heard someone say.

Huyvaert didn’t waste any time. She quickly climbed over some people and positioned herself directly in front of Brown.

What’s your dad’s name?” asked Huyvaert, a registered nurse who worked at the Memorial Leighton Heart and Vascular Center in South Bend.

Mike,” Brubaker replied.

She tried waking the man up, but he did not respond. She started firing questions at Brubaker very, very quickly.

Does he have any health conditions?
Is he a diabetic?
Has he had any cardiac issues?
Has he had anything to eat or drink today?

Not feeling a pulse, Lauren grabbed the man by the shoulders, laid him on the bench and started CPR.

I need EMS right now,” she told the ushers, who had also rushed over.

Noticing how terrified Brubaker looked, the nurse hollered over to her family.

Help her,” she instructed them. She remembers how surreal it felt doing all this in the middle of a football game.

“It’s loud, it’s noisy, and the game doesn’t stop because things like this happen. The players on the field, the coaches, the refs, people on the other side of the stadium don’t know what’s going on,” she said.

After first responders arrived, took over and transported Brown to Memorial Hospital, Huyvaert sat back down next to her family.

She would wonder if he survived and what happened to him.

Until they recently met again.


The envelope holding Christa Brubaker’s note to Beacon nurse Lauren Huyvaert.

After Brown arrived back home in Ohio, he told his daughter how he wanted to do something for the people back in South Bend who helped him.

So Brubaker penned a handwritten note and gave it to the parishioner who had given them the seats, to take with her to the next Notre Dame game.

If you see her, will you give her this note,” Brubaker said, describing the nurse’s red hair. “You’ll know her if you see her.”

Her friend returned with the envelope. She did not see anyone matching that description.

Brubaker put the envelope holding the note in her desk.

She had all but forgotten it was there until last week, when Brubaker and her dad were given the opportunity to attend the Notre Dame home game against Central Michigan.

Brubaker’s husband told his wife and father-in-law not to get their hopes up. “He told me how the odds of ever seeing her again are so slim,” she said. “But I just had a feeling.”

Mike Brown embraces Beacon RN Lauren Huyvaert. (September 2023)

This time, Brubaker and her dad were sitting in different sections with different family members. Before they parted, she told him not to fall asleep and, ‘Please stay alive.’

Section 2, Row 58.

Brubaker recognized some of the Notre Dame fans seated in her row from 2022, including a woman who she learned was the cardiac nurse’s mom.

Your daughter saved my dad’s life,” Brubaker told her.

Tears filled both their eyes.

Here she is, here she is,” Huyvaert’s mom said a few minutes later, spotting her daughter on the stairs. When she sat down, her mom said, “This is the daughter of the man that you saved last year.”

Neither could believe they were meeting again. Huyvaert and Brubaker embraced. And shortly before halftime, Brown walked over to meet the nurse who saved his life.

They embraced, sharing an emotional reunion.

“I gave her a big hug and thanked her. She was my guardian angel,” Brown said.

It also meant the world to the Beacon nurse.

“Knowing he was alive and doing well, it was the best feeling.”

Brubaker took the note she had written a year prior, tattered envelope and all, and handed it to Huyvaert. It read:

The note Christa Brubaker wrote to Lauren Huyvaert, RN, Memorial Hospital.

To the nurse who saved my dad’s life:

Words can never express our gratitude that we were seated next to you at the Notre Dame game on Oct. 23, 2022. My dad is still here with us because of your quick action in resuscitating him. I appreciated your care and concern that I was also taken care of during this most scary time of my life. I know God placed us near you that day and we are eternally thankful.

The family of Mike Brown, Van Wert, Ohio


Huyvaert emphasizes the importance of being CPR certified.

“We see with this story that it saved a life, and we saw it last year in the NFL with Damar Hamlin,” she said. “Quick action saves lives. You’ll never know when you’ll be in this kind of situation. Even if you’re not a trained professional, you can still save lives. You can do what I did, too. Any life that is saved is a life lived.”

Brown is grateful to have been alive this past year for the two great grandchildren who were born and to be attending the wedding of his granddaughter this weekend.

“I’m very thankful,” he said.

Does he believe in divine intervention?

“Absolutely,” he said, looking at Huyvaert. “I believe in angels.”


WNDU Channel 16 talked with Christa, Mike and Lauren via Zoom this week. Watch the emotional virtual reunion here.

Christa Brubaker, Lauren Huyvaert and Mike Brown are reunited. (September 2023)

About Heidi Prescott

Passionate about writing her whole life, Heidi Prescott joined Beacon Health System in 2015 and currently serves as Senior Media Relations Strategist. A former newspaper journalist who has experience in TV, radio, magazines and social media, Heidi loves storytelling, photography and spending time in nature.