Officer breathes life into newborn

North Charleston Police Officer David Campbell resuscitated a three-month premature baby last week.

CPR performed on a mini-scale to minutes-old baby

A cramp pierced Shanice Johnson's belly Friday as she curled on the couch watching television in her Forest Hills home.

She shrugged it off as a stomach ache. Though she was nearly six months pregnant, her baby wasn't due until March. The 19-year-old had seen her doctor just the day before. Everything looked fine.

"Must be something I ate," she thought, as the pain grew worse.

Then her water broke.

Shanice looked down in shock and reached for the phone. She dialed 911.

"Please don't let me deliver my baby yet."

A few miles away, North Charleston police officer David Campbell was catching his breath after a foot chase along Ladson Road. He had to zap the suspect with a Taser stun gun after the man assaulted a fellow officer. Campbell was filling out paperwork on the incident when a report of Shanice's emergency crackled over the police radio.

Campbell raced to her home on Pepperdam Creek Drive with sirens blaring. First to arrive, he ran to the front door and grabbed the handle. The door swung open as someone pulled from the other side.

Shanice stood before him, half-dressed and covered in blood.

Campbell looked down and saw what appeared to be a small doll lying on the carpet. It was no doll.

A tiny newborn lay limp on the floor, its eyes partially open, chest still. It couldn't have been more than 9 inches long, with umbilical chord and placenta still attached.

The 38-year-old officer has three children of his own, but he had never seen an infant so small.

He suddenly wished he was anywhere but there.

The sound of a tinny voice jolted him from his surprise. It came from a cell phone lying on the floor beside the baby.

"Is anyone there? Is anyone there?"

Campbell picked up the phone. It was a county dispatcher. As Campbell relayed information over the phone, his training kicked in and he knew what he had to do: get the child breathing.

Campbell trained in CPR but had never put those skills to the test on a human being. His first attempt would be on a boy who weighed less than a pound and a half.

Campbell picked up the fragile form. The child fit neatly into his palm, with only little feet dangling from his hand. The infant stared back with dull, glazed eyes.

Campbell recalled his training officer telling him that too much air could overwhelm a baby's tiny lungs. He took care to breathe gently as he passed small puffs of air from his mouth to the child's. In between breaths, he pressed on the newborn's chest with a finger or two to restore circulation. Just like in the book: two rescue breaths, 30 chest compressions, two rescue breaths, 30 chest compressions. Gradually, life began to return.

"Please God, let him be OK," Campbell prayed. "And let EMS get here sooner than later."

He lost track of time. Another officer appeared and patted his back. "You're doing fine, Dave."

Suddenly, emergency medical technicians were at his side with an oxygen mask that practically covered the child's head.

At the ambulance, they told Campbell that the child's heart was beating. Relief. EMS rushed the little boy and his mother to Medical University Hospital, while Campbell was sent to another doctor's office to be checked for exposure to blood and potential pathogens. There, he learned that the infant and mother were doing all right. Tears ran down the officer's cheeks.

The infant, since named Jerimiah Jaylin Laron Chisolm, is breathing on his own and should be fine, doctors said. He is expected to remain in the hospital until February. Shanice visits him in intensive care every day.

Shanice and her parents, Bruce and Laverne Simmons, paid a visit to the North Charleston Police Department on Wednesday to thank Campbell for his efforts. They handed him a fruit basket. Bruce Simmons offered to have Campbell over for barbecue sometime.

"If it weren't for him and God, my grandson wouldn't be here today," Simmons said. "There's not much I really can say but 'Thank you.' "

Police Chief Jon Zumalt told Campbell that he was proud of him for saving a life. Such victories make the long hours and hard work worthwhile for police, he said.

Tall and soft-spoken, Campbell seemed a bit surprised by all the attention. He was just glad he could help give young Jerimiah a shot at life. Campbell hopes he can visit him in the hospital. He wants to see this new life one more time, under less daunting circumstances.

"You have to give a lot of credit to that little boy," he said. "He just came into this world and he wasn't ready to go out just yet. He was a fighter and he's still fighting. God must have some sort of plan for him."

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or gsmith@postandcourier.com.