Elkins High School staff honored for saving life of pregnant teacher in distress

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by Shern-Min Chow / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on May 21, 2013 at 12:09 AM

Updated Tuesday, May 21 at 6:35 PM

HOUSTON—A Missouri City teacher and her new baby are a shining example of the “miracle of life.” 

The mother literally died to give birth to her daughter, but today is at home recovering with her baby.  Doctors had given both just a 5 percent chance of survival.  They are expected to be fine thanks to co-workers who leapt into action.

On Feb. 15, 2013 at about 9 a.m. at Elkins High School Erica Nigrelli simply collapsed.  Her husband, also an English teacher,  just two doors down, called 911. 

“My wife is having a seizure.  She’s on the floor,” he told the operators.  “Oh my God! She’s pregnant and she’s foaming. Unresponsive.”

His wife was 36 weeks pregnant.  Luckily school nurse Jennifer Longoria was right there.

“She was on the ground, struggling to breathe when she grabbed my arm and took her last breath,” she said.

Longoria is not exaggerating. 

Coach June Tomlin, who is also trained in first aid, jumped in.

“I got the scissors and cut off her shirt and started compressions,” Tomlin said.

Nurse Maxine Reeves, nicknamed “The Enforcer” booted the dad to be out of the room. 

“I’m ripping her bra off, attaching the defibrillator pads, “Dad you need to step outside! Everyone clear the room,” she said.

Nathan Nigrelli is still emotional as he recalled the moment.

“Your daughter, your wife--- your whole entire reason for being is on the ground,” he said.  

Then paramedics took over.  Doctors at the hospital stopped C.P.R. just long enough for the C-section that would save Baby Elayna.  It was a post- mortem delivery. 

Erica Nigrelli explained, technically she was dead and “my heart was not beating.”

She had an undiagnosed heart condition, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or so called “Athlete’s Heart.”  Part of the heart wall becomes thick and often leads to abnormal heart rhythms.  It is the same condition that has struck down teenage athletes and led to the installation of A.E.Ds, or Automated External Defibrillators in Texas schools.  An A.E.D. saved Erica Nigrelli and her baby’s life. 

Erica left the hospital with two new leases on life.  She pointed to a three-inch scar on her chest.

“That’s my pacemaker scar so I essentially have a bionic heart,” she said.

With her other arm, she held Baby Elayna and said “God is Good.”

On Monday the Missouri City fire chief honored the quick work of the Elkins staff with awards of “Exemplary Action presented to Maxine Reeves, Jennifer Longoria and June Tomlin.”

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