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12-year-old helps save his mother's life by performing CPR

Published: Friday, March 22 2013 6:35 p.m. MDT

C.J. Saulsgiver, with his mother, Christine, Friday, March 22, 2013, in her hospital room. C.J. performed CPR on her, saving her life after she suffered a heart attack.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

ROY — It’s a sound no 12-year-old wants to hear. But as the piercing scream of his mother echoed throughout the house Tuesday afternoon, C.J. Saulsgiver responded immediately, performing CPR, and is now credited with saving her life.

“There are no words to say how I feel about his heroic actions,” said his father, Doc Saulsgiver. “For what he did, I have a wife and he has a mom.”

C.J. said he was in the basement of his home in Roy with a friend at about 4:30 p.m., when he heard the sound of the table skidding across the tile and his mother screaming his name.

“It was a distinct, high-pitched yell that became low-pitched before she fell down,” C.J. said. “I ran upstairs and saw that part of her face was purple and her hands were big.”

His mother, Christine, had had a heart attack. Having been trained three months prior, C.J. knew what to do. Under the guidance of a 911 dispatcher, he performed CPR.

“I tilted her head and she was not breathing, so I pushed down four times on her chest and breathed into her mouth,” C.J. said. “I did it for about four or five times until I was told to open the door for the paramedics, who all ran inside.”

Months ago, C.J. and his parents had become CPR-certified at a youth track class required for prospective foster parents. Doc said they had decided to take C.J., their only child, with them, since he would be with the children often.

“We didn’t anticipate that he would ever need to use what he had been taught,” Doc Saulsgiver said.

C.J. said the incident came as a shock to him as well.

“(My Mom) gets sick about once in a great 10 months,” C.J. said. “But never like this. I’ve never even seen her in the hospital before.”

Christine Saulsgiver, who turned 55 years old this month, said she shouldn’t have been surprised.

“My father died of a heart attack at 36,” she said. “I have high cholesterol and often smoke, though I haven’t had a cigarette in 4 days and hope to continue staying off it.”

Brooke Perkins, who arrived on the scene as a paramedic, said C.J. gave his mom every chance to survive before help stepped in.

“We were lucky that C.J. kept that blood pumping until we arrived,” Perkins said. “If we’re not circulating the blood, then cellular respiration cannot take place and the heart stops beating.”

For the young hero, the day was significant in more ways than one: It was his 12th birthday.

“I’ll never forget this birthday,” C.J. said. “We were all going to go out together, but we may have to put that off until mom gets better.”

And officials are saying she’s on her way.

“Mom will be going home today and she’s going to walk out of this with no neurological deficits, full function and a normal life,” said Fire Chief Jason Poulson, who presented C.J. with a Roy City Fire and Rescue plaque Friday for outstanding heroic actions.

“It sounds like C.J. is a true hero and it sounds like we may be having a birthday party at the fire station,” Poulson said, noting that the boy may have a future in the fire department: “We may have to sign you up early, if you’re that good at CPR.”

E-mail: rlowry@deseretnews.com

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