(CNN) — Three-month-old Elayna Nigrelli has redefined what it means to be a miracle baby. She was born while her mother was technically dead.
In February, Erica Nigrelli was teaching at a high school in Missouri City, Texas, when she walked into a co-worker’s classroom.
Nigrelli said she felt faint, placed her hands on a table to steady herself and then passed out.
Three teachers immediately grabbed a defibrillator and also began performing CPR. Kids in the classroom ran out, yelling for help.
Nigrelli’s husband, Nathan, also a teacher, was just two doors down. He rushed into the room.
“Erica was lying on the floor, she was foaming and making gurgling sounds and just staring up,” he told CNN affiliate KPRC.
He called 911.
“My wife is pregnant,” he said, his breath heavy with panic. “She’s having a seizure! The baby’s due in three weeks!”
“Oh my God!” the 911 operator exclaimed.
By the time paramedics rushed the 32-year-old to the hospital, doctors could not find a pulse. Her heart had stopped.
Doctors delivered the baby by emergency cesarean section.
Technically, it was a postmortem delivery because Erica’s heart was not beating.
But then something remarkable happened. The doctors turned to Erica, and soon her heart started beating again.
Over the next five days, she remained in a medically induced coma, she told CNN, and doctors diagnosed her with a heart defect she didn’t know she had — hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The condition causes the heart muscle to thicken. The thickening can make it more difficult for blood to leave the heart, forcing it to work harder to pump blood.
Baby Elayna was in the intensive care unit for two weeks.
On Friday, the couple appeared with her on CNN’s “Early Start,” with Elayna on Mom’s lap, sucking on a purple pacifier. She weighs 8 pounds and is healthy.
“We feel great,” Nathan Nigrelli said. “We have a wonderful baby. My wife is back to 100%.
The baby hasn’t shown any signs of trouble but is still on oxygen. The child will undergo therapy soon, but by all accounts her recovery looks to be on track and she’ll be fine.
Erica Nigrelli believes that God was protecting her. She told CNN that she has a memory of being in the ambulance. “I remember being bounced up,” she said. And she remembers seeing sunlight.
When she came to in the hospital, she remembers the doctors telling her, “You have your baby. She is in the hospital.”
She saw Elayna three weeks after she was born.
The two joked that if Elayna ever gets out of line, all her parents have to do is remind their daughter what they went through to bring her into the world.
“I have got, like, the best ammunition for the rest of her life,” Erica Nigrelli laughed. “She can never do anything wrong.”
— CNN’s Jennifer Bixler and Aparnaa Seshadri contributed to this report.