Stanislaus deputy aids newborn struggling to breathe

Eufemia Didonato

A deputy’s training in CPR may have saved the life of a weeks-old infant Sunday night. Within a minute of a dispatch of a baby struggling to breathe, Deputy Jacob Callahan with Patterson Police Services was on scene, according to a Facebook post by the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. Bodycam […]

A deputy’s training in CPR may have saved the life of a weeks-old infant Sunday night.

Within a minute of a dispatch of a baby struggling to breathe, Deputy Jacob Callahan with Patterson Police Services was on scene, according to a Facebook post by the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.

Bodycam footage shows Callahan being directed to a room where a woman is holding the baby, who is largely quiet but sounds like he’s coughing. Only after the deputy holds the baby chest-down in one hand while repeatedly smacking him firmly on the back as he heads toward the front door does the child begin to cry.

“There we go,” someone is heard saying as the baby fusses.

Callahan continues to hold and soothe the child while awaiting an ambulance crew. He lifts his voice to a tenor and says in a singsong way, “You’re all right, you’re OK.”

He also explains to the family what he’s just done, should this happen again. “God forbid, it doesn’t,” he adds. He suggests they learn what they can by searching online, using terms like “infant CPR” and “infant choking,” and consider taking a pediatric first-aid/CPR class.

That’s sound advice for any parent, grandparent or caregiver to young children. Though newborn Alexander Gomez didn’t pick up something and put it in his mouth, many curious, mobile babies do. Hazards exist in all homes: the piece of toy that breaks off unnoticed, the kernel of popcorn that falls while the bowl is being carried to the couch, the colorful rubber bouncy ball that didn’t get picked up.

They’re there year round, perhaps no time more than the holidays, when bowls of candies tempt little fingers and mouths, presents are hurriedly unwrapped and unboxed, contents of stockings are dumped as children check to see what Santa left them.

A solution turns out to be a problem

Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Luke Schwartz connected The Bee with Monica Gomez, mother of 3-week-old Alexander. She said her baby had been very colicky — gassy and steadily crying — so she gave him some drops of gripe water as his doctor had suggested. She immediately regretted it, though, because it went down the wrong pipe and Alexander began choking and turning purple, Gomez said.

The family called 911 and when Deputy Callahan got there, Gomez said she was distressed to the point of being “really out of it, in a completely other world.” As she saw the deputy turning Alexander over and rapping his back, she remembered that’s what she’d learned to do.

Upon becoming a mother, she said, she started looking up articles and video on parenting, first aid, CPR and more, hoping she’d never need to use the knowledge. And when the time came that she did, she was too panicked, she said.

Callahan, of course, wasn’t. “When he got here, he just did what he had to do and he saved my baby and he comforted my baby,” Gomez said.

Deputies rarely have to provide infant or child CPR, Schwartz said, but if they happen to be closer to a scene than paramedics are, “they can find themselves as the only first responder in position to render aid.” Deputies have their CPR skills refreshed every other year as part of their in-service STOP (Sheriff’s Tactical Operations Program) training, he said.

Pediatric CPR ‘a great life skill’

Pediatric CPR is “a great life skill for everybody to know,” Schwartz added. The American Red Cross offers a variety of first-aid/CPR classes, including online-only, in-person and blended (including an online portion and an instructor-led classroom skill session). Learn more at

The American Heart Association also offers pediatric CPR and first aid courses, which can be found at

And some of the Stanislaus County Office of Education’s 10 Healthy Start Family Resource Centers offer pediatric CPR instruction to member families. SCOE Youth Programs Coordinator Erikka Perry said the instruction is primarily online, concluding with an in-person session.

Safe Kids Stanislaus Coordinator Rena Bryant, who also is a pediatric advanced life support instructor at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, said that trained or untrained, there’s one thing a family should do first when a child is not breathing or is struggling to breathe: Call 911.

And though it’s hard to imagine anything more stressful to a parent than a child who’s life is in danger, she said it’s crucial to keep a calm head when on the line with a dispatcher. “Take a breath and figure out where you are, because that sometimes causes a delay when people are so flustered and they don’t know exactly where they are,” she said.

Also make sure to have your cell phone’s speaker turned on, Bryant said, so you can have your hands free as the dispatcher offers some instruction on what to do until EMS arrives.

While waiting for the pros, if a child is choking, but can breathe, cough, maybe even talk, it’s best to keep hands off, Bryant said. “You just encourage them to keep talking, keep coughing, coughing, coughing. Sometimes what people do is they’ll hit them on the back to get it out. And that actually can lodge the item in their trachea, which causes them to choke even worse.”

Keep the child sitting up in a relatively comfortable position, keep the airway open, remove binding clothing, anything bothersome around the neck, she said. If the child loses consciousness, “then you go to the whole CPR process,” Bryant said.

The empty toilet paper roll rule

Preventionwise, there’s little that can be done in a case like baby Alexander’s. But choking on foreign objects is another matter.

Bryant said that in a home with small children, it’s wise to keep small toys and toy pieces picked up and put out of the way after playtime. “A good visual is an empty toilet paper roll,” she said. “If anything fits down that, then it’s something that can get lodged in a child’s airway.”

Button batteries are double trouble, Bryant said. added. They’re common in small toys, and children can get to them easily if a battery compartment isn’t securely fastened. Children can choke on them or, if they swallow them, the batteries can cause stomach and intestinal burns.

In general, try to look through baby’s eyes and mind when childproofing a home. “How they explore the world is through their mouth,” Bryant said, “so any small object is going to go in their mouth for exploratory reasons.”

For additional information on protecting children from toy hazards, choking and more, visit the Safe Kids Worldwide site at

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Deke has been an editor and reporter with The Modesto Bee since 1995. He currently does breaking-news, education and human-interest reporting. A Beyer High grad, he studied geology and journalism at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento.

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