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Two days after having what she considered a routine cesarean section at Intermountain Medical Center, Arlee Gregerson felt ready to return home to South Jordan with baby Lucy and her husband, Ryan.

Three days after the Nov. 8 birth, the new mother's heart stopped beating. She collapsed, unconscious, in the restroom at dawn, and woke up unable to breathe. Nurses searched for a pulse as they rushed her out of the maternity ward. An intensive-care nurse named Melissa Fox climbed atop the gurney, initiating more than an hour of CPR.

Gregerson's pulse came and went as doctors sought to slow the flow of blood into her lungs, curb bleeding in her uterus, and determine whether the backup in her arteries had killed her brain.

In the room where trauma is commonplace and death often looms, no one had foreseen this ordeal.

The 31-year-old real estate agenthad been on her feet hours earlier, making plans to meet her parents at home. Then the pulmonary embolism — a blood clot that clogs arteries in the lungs — struck, spurred by the C-section.

Gregerson had a C-section, she said, because the baby was in the breech position. If she had gone ahead with a vaginal birth, the child would have come out feet or bottom first, which increases the odds of complications.

But surgical birth also comes with risks.

Having a C-section raises the likelihood of both blood clots and pulmonary embolisms by about fivefold, said Bob Silver, chief of maternal-fetal medicine for University of Utah Health Care.

"It's a rare but serious risk," Silver said Thursday.

Research is limited, Silver added, but indicates that the clots are more likely for women who are older, obese or have an emergency C-section.

Doctors often will give the higher-risk women a blood thinner.

After the procedure, Gregerson, like most patients, was strapped into compression boots that help to limit the chance of a clot.

Intermountain obstetricians could not be reached Thursday afternoon because they were working in the hospital's clinics and delivering babies, said spokesman Jason Carlton.

Gregerson has no memory of the 12 hours it took to stabilize her. She recalls waking up thirsty afterward and asking for her daughter, she said at a news conference Thursday.

The event celebrated the success at the hospital that reports delivering 32,000 babies last year.

"It just seems too crazy to be true," Gregerson said, holding the month-old Lucy alongside her husband.

Such blood clots are common, but not for new and seemingly healthy moms, said Don Van Boerum, a surgeon on the team.

"It doesn't tend to be so catastrophic," Van Boerum said.

It's also a rare success for sustained CPR. Most patients receive the chest compressions for just moments before they regain breath — or are lost altogether.

In Gregerson's case, blood-pressure readings showed the last-resort method was working, albeit slowly, Van Boerum said after the news conference.

Doctors and nurses switched off giving her CPR every few minutes. They were encouraged by an intermittent pulse and an indication Gregerson still had brain function, locking eyes with nurse Kaley Graham.

By evening, the clot was under control.

"We don't ever see such a quick turnaround" Graham said. "That was the biggest payoff for me.

Van Boerum agreed.

"This truly is a miraculous outcome."

Ryan Gregerson, 33, said the family was not making any special holiday plans and would focus on "just being together." Twitter: @anniebknox