MISSOURI CITY, Texas – A Missouri City high school teacher's heart wasn't beating when she delivered her baby, but three of her co-workers are credited with saving her life and her newborn's.
Erica Nigrelli, an English teacher at Elkins High School, collapsed in a co-worker's classroom when she was 36 weeks pregnant. Now three months later, her baby, named Elayna, weighs nine pounds and doctors said she is getting healthier and could be taken off oxygen as early as next week.
"She's just a baby," said Erica. "A normal baby."
It's a miracle considering how baby Elayna came into this world. Nigrelli technically died, gave birth, and was brought back to life, doctors say.
Erica said she told her co worker she felt faint. "I put my head down and I essentially just passed out," she said.
Her husband, Nathan, is also an English teacher at Elkins; He said he heard the commotion and ran to see what was going on.
"I opened the door and walked in. Erica was lying on the floor, she was foaming and making gurgling sounds and just staring up," said her husband.
Erica's heart had stopped. Three co-workers sprang into action and began lifesaving techniques. The school nurse, her assistant and the athletic trainer started CPR and used a defibrillator to get her heart beating again. They kept the 32-year-old teacher alive until paramedics arrived and rushed her to the hospital. Doctors delivered the baby by emergency C-section one month early. Technically, it was a postmortem delivery because Erica's heart was not beating.
"There were two lives hanging in the balance the whole time," said Nathan.
Doctors diagnosed Erica with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscle becomes thick.
"Nine times out of ten most people die from the initial collapse," said Eric. "It was literally a ticking time bomb, it just happened when I was 36 weeks pregnant."
She spent several weeks in ICU while her newborn baby was in the NICU at a different hospital. Now, they're both home and doing great. It's a testament to the actions of her co-workers who knew what to do in the first few minutes of her collapse.
"I wasn't scared," said school nurse Jennifer Longoria. "I knew what I had to do and my team was incredible."
"I got the scissors and cut off her shirt," said athletic trainer June Tomlin.
Clinical assistant Maxine Reeves said Nathan was "freaking out" and saying "save my wife, save my wife."
And they did.
The three women were honored at the Missouri City council meeting on Monday night.
"Thankful is not a strong enough word for what they've done for us," said Erica.