TODAY   |  May 23, 2013

Miracle birth: Baby, mom live after mom’s heart stops

Teacher Erica Nigrelli was nine months pregnant when an undetected heart defect caused her heart to stop in a classroom. Thanks to quick action from co-workers who performed CPR, her baby was delivered shortly after, and both survived. NBC’s Tamron Hall reports.

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>>> now a story out of texas also getting a lot of attention. a baby born after the mother's heart stopped beating.

>> oh, man, this is amazing, matt. this is a story we first heard about through our houston affiliate kprc. three co-workers are credited with saving two lives, that newborn baby and her mom.

>> reporter: for this family, every day is a gift after 76 days in the hospital, 3-month-old elena finally home after a touch and go delivery into this world. they call elena 's birth a miracle, mother erica is an english teacher . she collapsed in a co-worker's classroom when she was nine months pregnant.

>> i told her, i feel very faint. and i put my head down and essentially just passed out.

>> erica 's husband is a teacher at the same school and was only two classrooms away when his pregnant wife fainted.

>> i opened the door and walked in and erica was lying on the floor.

>> erica says an undetected heart defect caused her heart to stop.

>> i had what's known as athlete's heart. nine out of ten times people die from the initial collapse.

>> they used cpr and a defibrillator to keep erica and her baby alive until a paramedic arri arrived.

>> it was literally a ticking time bomb and happened when i was 36 weeks.

>> erica was rushed to the hospital and within minutes, doctors delivered her baby an emergency c-section.

>> there were two lives that were hanging in the balance the whole time.

>> doctors told her family it was a postmortem birth because her heart stopped beating in the delivery room. but thanks to physicians and erica 's three co-workers both she and her baby have beaten the odds.

>> i'm extremely lucky. i don't call it lucky, i call it blessed because if i didn't have the people there that were there, i wouldn't be alive and neither would she.

>> erica 's co-workers were honored by the missouri city council. baby elena is expected to be off oxygen tanks by early next week. doctors implanted a pacemaker to monitor her heart. it is incredible. but to see her hugging that baby and both okay. it makes your day.

>> yeah, really good ending to what could have been a tragic story. tamron, thank you very much.